Holidays should all be about rest and relaxation in an exotic or favourite destination and making memories with new experiences. Unfortunately the dramatic turnaround in pace and change in lifestyle mean that bodies can be put under strain. With a little planning and management, you can make sure that you return home feeling just as good as when you arrived in your dream destination. Below, we’ve listed a few stay-well strategies to do throughout your holiday.
New country, new food, new germs. This all means that you have to be extremely careful when trying new foods and going to new places because your immune system is out of its comfort zone and susceptible to bacteria or viruses. Indulging and eating out a lot of the time means you don’t have total control about how your food is cleaned, handled or kept, which can lead to various bacteria thriving and putting you at risk of falling ill. Prevent a stomach upset or food poisoning by keeping your immune system healthy with probiotic supplements – supplements that keep your digestive tract healthy- for five days before you leave for your trip. To add further power to your immunity, make sure you get a full 8 hours sleep the night before you leave – the stress of travelling can lower your immunity to things like cold and flu germs which effect every one in five plane passengers within a week of their flight.
Avoid foods like cold meats and fish, anything with egg in it which has been open for a while, like mayonnaise – these are safer in single closed sachets, and avoid buffet foods. Cheese and other dairy products are also better to avoid if possible, especially if you haven’t bought the item fresh yourself, as it’s hard to tell if the product has been pasteurised. If you’re eating out, order your meats ‘well done’ or ‘medium well’ as this ensures the meat has been thoroughly cooked, but only eat them if they are still hot when served to you, as this means all bacteria will have been killed off, instead of leaving the meat to cool and giving the bacteria a chance to spread.
Those at the biggest risk for foodborne illness are the pregnant, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, but travelling can wear down even the healthiest travellers. It’s easy to neglect proper nutrition, especially when surrounded by food which you want to try or eat, and eating at irregular times can compromise the immune system and lead to illness. When you’re away, try and maintain a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and stay hydrated by drinking lots of bottled water. However, make sure you do indulge yourself – you are on holiday, after all.
Your stomach might not be up to the challenge of taking on some of the foods you encounter whilst you’re on holiday but there’s something more dangerous and more likely to give you food poisoning than holiday indulgences. Water, especially ice, are the main causes of dietary and digestive problems whilst people are abroad. We take our clean, filtered, and readily available water here for granted and so we’re not accustomed to the water available in other countries. To stay safe, avoid ice and tap water, and boil any water you want to drink or use first. You don’t always have to drink the contaminated water to be exposed to a potentially holiday-ruining bacteria. Think about the water you brush your teeth with or watch your contact lenses or dentures in, too.
You can check whether your destination has had any outbreaks of salmonella, e.coli or any other foodborne illnesses by checking the World Health Organisation website.