Avoid illness while on the road:
Illness can ruin a trip; who wants to be worrying where the nearest toilet is whilst marvelling at Machu Picchu, or avoiding the sun when there’s a world-class beach on your hostel’s doorstep? From my experience, these things have a habit of hitting at the most inconvenient times. So what are the usual suspects, and how can you avoid them?
Coming back with a healthy-looking tan is always nice. But can a tan ever be truly healthy? The answer is no. If you’re going somewhere exotic, chances are your skin won’t be accustomed to such intense rays. So cover up: wear a hat and some light clothes when you’re out in the sun, and invest in some sunglasses that have UV protection. Suncream is vital too. It’s easy to get lazy, and everyone’s been caught out at some point. So what’s the best course of action for a spot of sizzled skin? Damaged skin takes about two weeks to recover, so suncream is a must for those areas. Plenty of water and oral-rehydration solutions will avoid dehydration. Bring down inflammation with cooling solutions and ibuprofen.
Delhi belly; Traveller’s diarrhoea; Montezuma’s revenge. No matter what you call it, its effect is one of the backpacker’s worst enemies. Affecting around 1 in 3 travellers, it can be the cause of much discomfort, and even more embarrassment. How to avoid it then? Stay away from food that’s not been heated thoroughly. Salad’s are a no-no. Stick to bottled or canned drinks rather than risk the local tap water and politely turn down any offers of ice. If you do find yourself in trouble, then take a few measures between toilet trips: pop some Imodium, and drink plenty of water and rehydration solution.
A backpacking trip abroad is in my opinion not complete without at least one ten hour bus trip sharing insufficient leg room with an over-friendly handlebar-moustached man with a machete and vest. So what you gunna do when you start feeling a little queasy and you know it won’t be too long before machete man isn’t smiling anymore as you fail to contain last nights Pad Thai in a sock? The answer is to be prepared. If you’re susceptible to motion sickness, have some effective remedies ready in your bag. Either over-the-counter medication, and/or ginger and peppermint products are good. Travel sickness is caused by mixed messages being sent to the brain when the body experiences repetitive movements: your eyes and ears report different things and so your brain freaks out. If you know you have a long trip coming up, take some precautions to minimise the effects. Avoid heavy meals and too much alcohol. Knowing how to ask a bus driver to stop is also pretty handy.
It’s surprising how many activities involve going somewhere really high when you’re travelling. Altitude sickness is a potential killer. It is caused by speedy ascents when the body has insufficient time to acclimatise to the changing environment. Be the tortoise: it is young, fit males who are more likely to suffer from the illness, since their macho attitude and superior physical ability fools them into thinking they can race up a mountain rather than a slow, steady climb. Things to look out for include nausea, a headache, dizziness and exhaustion. Experiencing these symptoms mildly is no reason to panic. Continue your ascent at a slow and steady pace. If it gets worse, then remain at your current altitude to allow for acclimatisation. Descending too quickly can also have a negative effect, so if you decide to call it a day, don’t do so in a hurry. A severe case can actually cause a build up of fluid on the lungs or brain, making it potentially the most serious ailment here.
By Alex Prior