You’ve taken out travel insurance, you’ve visited a travel health clinic, and you even have a first aid kit already assembled. That’s great. Despite your preparedness, there is a good chance you are still doing something wrong. This list will set you straight.
1. Having no idea what kind of medical care is available at your destination
It doesn’t matter where you are going, you should have a basic idea of what kind of medical care you can expect when you get there. If you got into a serious car accident, would you need medical evacuation, or are there adequate medical facilities on site? If you are traveling to rural areas, are there medical facilities nearby or would you need to travel to a major city? Spend 15 minutes doing some basic research and you will have a good idea of what you can expect.
2. You don’t travel with important medical information on you
Do you have any severe allergies? What is your blood type? Are there certain medications you can’t live without? You should travel with the answers to these questions. Fold up a piece of paper and put it inside your passport. If you are knocked unconscious – however unlikely this may be – and you are by yourself, knowing whether or not you have a severe, life-threatening allergy to penicillin is valuable information for a doctor. It takes 5 minutes to make a small info-sheet. Do it and it’s done.
3. You think hand sanitizer is bad because it promotes bacterial resistance
Alcohol based hand sanitizers are not the same thing as anti-bacterial soaps. Alcohol based hand sanitizers do not promote bacterial resistance. They dry up bacteria rather than try to “fight” them like the antibacterial agent triclosan. So, yes, use hand sanitizer. Go crazy with it. You’re not helping bacteria in their evolutionary march forward. Even better, use alcohol based hand wipes.
4. You think drinking alcohol will cleanse your blood
This is a nice thought. Get drunk and kill harmful bacteria with the high alcohol content. The only thing is, if you wanted to kill bacteria with a high blood alcohol content, you would have to drink enough to kill yourself several times over. If anything, alcohol ups your body’s workload, and it can compromise your immune system in the process. By the same token, please, do not try to drink tonic water to prevent or treat malaria.
5. You have no idea what your travel insurance actually covers
Waiting to get that compound fracture looked at and sighing with relief at the fact that you have travel insurance? You might be a bit frustrated (and broke) when you discover that your travel insurance doesn’t cover water skiing accidents. Read the fine print. If you don’t want to do it, convince a competent friend to do so for you.
6. You think you are superman/superwoman
You may be looking forward to your 12-historical-sights-and-5-museums-in-3-days tour, and then you may be regretting it before it’s over. You can, in fact, get sick while on vacation. One of the easiest ways to do so is to run yourself ragged. Yes, there are tons of things to see. Make sure that you can actually enjoy the sights that you do see. Plan for less, and get more out of the experience while staying healthy in the process.
7. A tan is your number one mission
If you go on vacation just to get that beach glow, you are throwing your long-term health under the bus. It may look good now, but it won’t look good later on, and it will only help to build up a healthy reservoir of skin damage that can later lead to skin cancer. Sorry.
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