I've just returned home after 18 months away for my first Christmas with the family in three years - it's a pretty great feeling to be home and to finally take a break from the constant shuffle of travelling. But of course, with the dramatic change from 35 degrees and humid of Asia and Australia, to freezing temperatures and frost on the ground - it's no surprise that I've picked up a cold! Every time I return home from travelling, I always seem to pick up some illness - last time it was the flu and an allergic reaction to something they sprayed on a plane.
But the ironic thing is that when I'm actually travelling I'm usually the healthiest of all - it's always when I stop or when I'm changing dramatically between temperatures that I really feel it. Whether you're a long-term traveller or you're just heading on holiday this winter, it's no fun to waste time feeling under the weather. You want to be outside living life to the fullest instead of hiding inside shivering and sniffing your way through the winter. This post is focusing on all the things I've learnt in my last few years of travelling and life about keeping healthy whether you're headed to sunny or snowy climates.
Preparation is key
If you're heading off on winter travels, the best way to ensure you have the amazing trip you've been dreaming of is to prepare - packing smartly can change your whole experience. I never leave on a trip without packing a mega holiday health kit - it may sound a bit crazy but the amount of times this bag has saved me or others from having our trips ruined proves it is more than worth it. Each bag is pretty personal to the individual traveller and their needs, but after years of travelling I've definitely narrowed down the essentials. Just jetting off for a few weeks in the sun? One of the best places to head this winter for good weather is Asia, but with this can come a whole heap of medical complaints. Likewise, if you're heading off for a skiing holiday, the cold can play havoc with your body. Top things to include in your holiday health kit:
- NEVER leave home without Imodium - if you're travelling Asia for any length of time you will get an upset stomach at least once and there's nothing that ruins a holiday like diarrhoea and being unprepared.
- Allergy pills - if you're prone to allergic reactions then the exposure to lots of new foods, germs and mosquitoes can cause a whole heap of problems - be prepared.
- Don't forget the mosquito spray and take some cream for bites if you get them quite badly, on holiday you are more likely to suffer as your skin will smell particularly tasty to the bugs.
- Sea sickness pills are a must if you're heading on ferries as you island hop, or if you're headed on a cruise.
- Painkillers should always be included - it's always best to have a mixture of paracetamol and ibuprofen as they target different types of pain, if you pick up a temperature or fever go for the latter.
- Cold and flu capsules can be a lifesaver if you're heading to colder temperatures and are prone to getting sick, don't let the sniffles hold you back on the slopes.
- If you're prone to injuries then go prepared by taking things like antiseptic spray (a lifesaver in Asia), band-aids including waterproof ones, and tweezers.
Eating and drinking your way healthy
When you're off on your holidays, all you ca think about is eating and drinking all the things you dream of when you're back home. Every night is a treat, with cocktails and rich, unusual foods, and desserts that are normally too naughty to indulge in every night. If you're normally eating pretty healthily at home with lots of vegetables and juices, then head on holiday to indulge in lots of carb-heavy meals and sweet, sugary cocktails with not many vitamins - it's easy to see why you might be more prone to getting sick. Just being a bit more aware of what you're putting in your mouth could make all the difference.
- Heading somewhere sunny? Indulge in all the amazing fresh fruits and juices available - I was gorging on fresh mangoes, papayas and passionfruit in Thailand every single day!
- Think spicy - if you're in a country where curries and spicy food is available everywhere, try and incorporate this into your diet as much as possible. The more spice you eat, the less the mosquitoes will bother you, and the less the germs will affect you because the chillies will help to burn it off.
- Want to indulge in a cocktail or two? Of course you should while you're on holiday, but remember to take sure you are drinking enough water too, dehydration can have a huge impact on your health in no time at all, particularly if you are in a hot country.
- Make sure you're eating a range of vegetables and foods - if you eat the same thing every day, the nutritional value will be far less than if you eat a varied diet. It's easy to forget vitamin C if you're crazy for watermelon but it's important to go for pineapples, passionfruit, oranges and kiwi as well!
- On a snowy holiday? Make sure you're still getting your vitamins and that you're eating enough for all the energy you'll be burning off out on the slopes or exploring in the cold.
Staying fit and active
Easily forgotten when you're on your holidays and just want to lay on the beach and tan but it's important to stay moving and keep your body active. Plus working up a sweat can be good for getting rid of any germs! It's a lot easier to stay active on a snowy holiday by taking part in activities like skiing or snowboarding.
- Sunny holiday? Get in the ocean and swim or snorkel, burn off last night's cocktails by going diving or join a Muay Thai course, go for a run on the beach at sunset or hike a mountain for sunrise. Arrived in a new place? Walk until you're exhausted and explore every inch of the new city or town.
- Snow holiday? Take skiing or snowboarding lessons, go snowshoeing, winter walking, walk around snowy towns and Christmas markets. There's plenty of ways to keep active and warm in exciting snowy destinations.
Treating the problem
Your worst nightmare happens and you get sick on your holiday, how do you cope? It happens to us all, and while it is such a shame when you've been looking forward to this trip, you don't have to let to ruin everything!
- Picked up a cold from the air conditioning or change in temperatures? My best tip - eat something spicy, gorge on satsumas and spend a day sleeping it off and taking cold and flu capsules. Sacrificing one day of your holiday can mean you feel more refreshed the next day after letting yourself rest, so you still feel up for making the most of your trip.
- Food poisoning? It's the worst feeling like you're chained to the toilet with tummy cramps. My best tip - drink plenty of water, try to eat dry crackers if you can't manage anything else, and take some Imodium. If it doesn't stop within a few hours, take some more and see how you are after. If it is really serious, seek medical advice.
- Try homeopathic remedies before medicine. My own personal recommendation based on what has worked well for me - if there is a good homeopathic doctor around, these remedies will often be far more effective and quick to take action while also stopping you from filling your body with medicine. I suffered the worst food poisoning and stomach bug of my life while in Sri Lanka, and after an hour of taking homeopathic medicine I was fine despite Imodium and various other medicines not working.
It's the worst if sickness or injury stands in the way of you having the trip you've been dreaming of, but don't let it dishearten you, it doesn't have to ruin the entire trip. Being prepared is the best way to salvage the holiday and make the most of every second by not wasting time looking for a chemist or doctor. So many less serious medical problems can be self-treated these days with over the counter remedies and first aid treatment which can save you valuable time on your trip. For the more serious illness or injuries, you should always be sure to take out a comprehensive insurance policy which will cover you for any medical care you might need - if taking part in winter sports activities be sure your policy covers any accidents. For any advice, look no further than specialists in holiday sickness claims, yourlegalfriend.com who offer a free call in service and will help with all the information you need to put in claims or request compensation. Wherever you are heading on holiday this winter, live life to the fullest and enjoy every second, just remember that a little preparation could help make it the best holiday yet!
Where are you headed on holiday this winter? What do you keep in your holiday health kit? Do you prefer sun or snow holidays?
Disclaimer: All advice given in this blog post is tried and tested by myself, it is based on what has worked well for me, but everyone is different and you should always seek medical advice if seriously ill.