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Travel Smart - Top Tips for Looking After Your Health Whilst Travelling
Posted on Nov 25, 2013 by Luke James
Anyone that travels regularly knows jetsetting around the world takes its toll on the human body. We look at some of the best tips and tricks to ensure a hassle-free and healthy trip.
Between packed airports, endless security checks, delayed (or cancelled) flights and lost luggage, travel is rarely hassle-free. Frequent travel can also have a number of negative health consequences, so it’s best to take some precautions when you’re on the road. We count down a handful of health related travel tips to make sure you arrive at your destination happy, healthy and refreshed.
Get a Jump Start on Jetlag
Many people can identify with the bizarre combination of extreme fatigue and insomnia that characterizes jetlag. Generally speaking, the further the distance, the greater the effects of jetlag, especially for those heading east. Though they may not work for everyone, a few simple tricks that can help alleviate some of the symptoms:
Prepare your body for changes in time zone by shifting your sleep schedule forward or backwards as required. If you are flying east, try to go to bed earlier, whilst if you are flying west it is preferable to go to bed later for a few nights before flying.
Set your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you commence your flight so you can mentally prepare for a new time zone.
Eat a light meal on the plane and load up with protein when you land. This can help your body adjust to a time zone shift.
Try to stay awake (or sleep) in the regular patterns as you would when you are already at the destination.
Allow Yourself a Rest Day
Whilst tight deadlines may make this a difficult proposition, by jumping straight into work mode you are lessening your body’s ability to adjust to the rigours of travel and exerting further toll on the body. Wherever possible, try to allow yourself a day to acclimatise to the new time zone and rest up after a long flight, to make sure you’re operating at your best.
Take Melatonin Supplements
A naturally occurring hormone, melatonin helps to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Levels rise after dark and peak overnight before falling again in the morning. In order to negate some of the effects of jetlag, experts recommend that travellers take melatonin supplements to help adjust the sleep/wake cycle.
A study by Bruno Claustrat concluded that subjects that took melatonin supplements in flights between North America and France experienced a better mood, had an easier time falling asleep and were more efficient the next morning. Further research went on to conclude that melatonin is best taken at 11 p.m. local time for optimal results.
Ensure You Have Adequate Insurance
In many cases health insurance only covers you whilst you’re in the country of the policy. Before you travel, ensure that your policy provides coverage during your trip. If you incur medical expenses while overseas without adequate coverage, you’ll be liable to pay the costs. These can rapidly escalate when you consider that the cost for evacuations or repatriations can easily stretch out to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Make sure that your insurance provider offers 24 hour emergency assistance, medical and health coverage as well as protection of your possessions from theft or damage.
Keep Hydrated Whilst Flying
Dehydration is a common problem for travellers, and the dry air of a pressurised plane cabin can wreak havoc on your body. Beyond the discomfort of feeling thirsty, dehydration can increase feelings of travel fatigue and increase your risk of catching a cold. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and cola have a dehydrating effect on the body and should be avoided. For those that experience extreme cases of dehydration, dabbing a small amount of vegetable, almond or jojoba oil in your nostrils can protect the mucous membranes from drying out too.
Watch What You Eat
Maintaining dietary vigilance whilst travelling isn’t always easy. Between the plethora of fast food options at the airport to regularly eating in restaurants, it’s easy to see how spending too much time travelling can have a detrimental effect on your waistline. By following a few simple guidelines you can avoid the bulge:
Pack your own snacks for the airport - By bringing healthy alternatives to the usual offerings from airlines you can minimize your caloric intake and make sure you’re not loading up on non-nutritious foods.
Turn off the tap - In many counties, tap water can be unsafe to drink, and in extreme circumstances can make you quite ill. If in doubt, stick to bottled water and avoid ice in drinks if you can’t confirm that it was made with purified water.
Avoid raw foods - Ths covers a wide spectrum of foods such as undercooked eggs, produce without a peel or shell as well as poultry or meat whose juices run pink.
Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants and buffets - If not served at the correct temperature, these foods can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Be careful purchasing food from street vendors and if you do, ensure that the cart or kiosk looks hygienic.
Maintain basic hygiene as you would anywhere else. Ensure that you wash your hands before eating, and if possible use a sanitising hand gel to keep nasties at bay.
Get Some Exercise Whilst You’re in the Air
The key to avoiding negative health consequences whilst flying is to be as active as possible. Try to get out of your seat and walk around whenever possible and do some exercises in your seat. Going through the following routine every half hour can help maintain mobility and lessen the likelihood of developing conditions such as deep vein thrombosis:
Alternate between relaxing and clenching your toes and feet.
Cycle through contracting and relaxing all the muscles in your legs.
Rotate and stretch your arms, legs and hands.
Practice ankle, foot and knee lifts.
Raise your knees to your chest and then move into a forward bend.
Maintain Your Fitness on the Ground
Just because you’re travelling for work doesn’t mean you should discard your usual fitness routine. With a little bit of dedication and some simple planning, it’s easy to stay in shape whilst travelling. By researching your accommodation and ensuring there are appropriate fitness facilities nearby it’s easy to maintain your regular workout. Depending on what your particular fitness requirements are, you should make sure to bring athletic shoes, exercise clothing or a swimsuit. Resistance bands are also a great way to get a workout as they take up very little space and weight.
Make Sure to Pack a First Aid Kit
It has long been said that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, but accidents can happen, and one of the best ways to make sure you stay healthy and well is to have a well-stocked first aid kit. Any first aid kit should contain the following:
Bandages and Neosporin - perfect for patching up cuts and scrapes. Tapes and gauze should be used for larger injuries, and saline solution is essential as a sterile wash if the water isn’t safe to use.
Pain relief medication
Insect repellant - beyond being an annoyance, mosquitos and other bugs can carry potentially life-threatening diseases.
Hydrocortisone cream - provides effective relief from stinging nettles and other potential sources of skin irritation.
Imodium - if you suffer from an upset stomach and diarrhea, the last thing you want to have to do rush to the chemist.
Prescription medication - always pack additional medication whilst travelling, in case you end up stranded. Be sure to pack your prescription medication in your carry-on luggage.
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