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Staying healthy on holidays

From food safety to travel vaccinations, here’s how to have a happy, healthy holiday.

Health Agenda magazine
October 2017

Travel can be incredibly restorative and experiencing other cultures can give you a new perspective on life. But while you’re exploring the world remember to keep an eye on your health with these travel tips.

Staying active while travelling

The only excess baggage you want to return from holiday with should be in your suitcase. If you’re on an active holiday and planning activities like skiing or hiking, then you’re all set.

Otherwise, take the opportunities as they arise: try walking tours or going for a run to explore a new place – all you need is sneakers. Staying active while travelling can even help you fight travel fatigue.

If you’re taking an active holiday, make sure you do some strength training beforehand so you can scale those stairs to the Acropolis, hike the trails in Yosemite National Park or even explore Australia’s backyard. This can be as simple as building up your walking and doing stretches and ankle and knee-strengthening exercises, especially if you’re over 50.

Preparing for your holiday

Before your trip, make sure you plan out the essentials. Don’t forget to check that your travel insurance covers all the activities you plan to do, and register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via Smart Traveller.

While you’re on the website, read the safety advice for the countries you’re travelling to, and get an idea of any cultural differences that might come with implications for travellers.

Getting travel vaccinations

Vaccinations can safeguard your health. Needles aren’t fun but neither are diseases like rabies. Dr Joe Pollak, medical director of the Travel Vaccination Clinic, recommends having your vaccinations up to date at all times, especially when travelling.

“Travelling to developing countries involves a significant risk so it’s important to at least get the basics, including hepatitis A and typhoid fever shots,” Dr Pollak says.

As a HCF member you may be able to claim for some vaccinations, depending on your level of cover. Vaccination advice can be found on the Smart Traveller website.

If you’re on regular medication you’ll need to take enough to last you for your trip, and it can be helpful to carry a letter for customs from your specialist explaining why you need the medication.

Making air travel easier

The reality of living in relatively isolated Australia is that most overseas adventures begin with a journey on an aeroplane. Standing and stretching during your flight could help ease aches and pains and reduce your risk of deep vein thrombosis.

To arrive feeling ready to explore, dietitian Dr Jessica Spendlove recommends keeping hydrated.

“If you become dehydrated you can feel run-down and lethargic. You’re also more at risk of getting sick, which you definitely don’t want when you’re on holidays,” says Dr Spendlove, who advises drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to, and during, your flight.

Food on the road

Trying new foods can be the best bit of your itinerary, and simple steps can help prevent food poisoning. Dr Pollak says it’s common, so it pays to be careful.

“The stats show 30-50% of people are at risk of food poisoning if travelling to developing areas longer than 2 weeks,” he says.

That statistic reduces to 5-10% if you’re visiting a developed country, but don’t be blasé no matter where you go.

“We don’t have immunity to the bugs people in other countries are exposed to daily,” says Dr Pollak. “Stick to cooked food; [food that is] properly cooked, piping hot, preferably that you can see cooked. Use bottled water even when you’re brushing your teeth. Try to avoid salads washed in local water and say no to ice.”

If you can, carry healthy snacks with you so that when you arrive you have some familiar and healthy go-to foods.

PLANNING A TRIP? WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED

Choose from budget, comprehensive or annual plans that cover medical and dental expenses, delays, lost luggage and more.

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