How to Stay Healthy on Your Travels

When travelling abroad, one of the main concerns is how to keep yourself fit and healthy, especially if like me, you go to some of the most exotic and remote locations in the world.

I was recently contacted by the Boots Travel Vaccinations and Health Advice Service regarding their service, and I was quite surprised because I didn’t know about it! How did I not know about this? I am in Boots literally a few times a times a week picking up my beauty and travel essentials – and my lunch! Mmm, Mexican Cheese and Bean Wrap…

Where, was I? Oh yeah, keeping healthy whilst travelling! So I was pretty excited to find out that Boots has this too, because it’s a right faff when I have to go to loads of different places to get what I need. I get loads of emails about health and preparing for travel (especially in Africa), so I thought you guys might also be interested in the services they provide and how I manage my health whilst I’m travelling.

Diseases

Get vaccinated! I don’t want to scare you – Africa is NOT the disease ridden place the media portrays. However, there are some illnesses there that haven’t been eradicated yet, so it’s best not to take preventative measures. Plus, some countries won’t let you in without a valid Yellow Fever certificate. Before I went to Africa for the first time, I got injections for Hepititis B, Hepatitis A/Typhoid, Diptheria/Tetanus/Polio, Meningitis, Rabies and Yellow Fever (I also got Japanese Encephelitis for Asia too) – 12 injections in total!

...and wheelbarrows!

…and wheelbarrows!

The Boots Travel Vaccinations and Health Advice Service offer advice and information on the vaccinations you need for your specific destination and can give you the immunisations you need.

Malaria

I am a mosquito magnet (in some countries anyway) and malaria is a horrible, horrible disease so I prefer to take medication to try and prevent myself from contracting it. Some medications are less effective in certain areas I believe, but Boots has a team of travel health Pharmacists in 2300 stores across the UK that can provide you with advice on the right medication for the countries you are going to –  I’m a fan of Malarone, but there are a few others you can take. Even if you decide to go away pretty last minute, some malaria prophylactics can be started a couple of days befor you leave.

Whilst your away, my advice is to cover up your arms/legs/feet at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Use a mosquito repellent which is at least 50% DEET – I usually use a Boots Repel Tropical Strength or Jungle Formula. Just be careful, strong DEET is great at removing the colour from your plastics! 

Solo Female Travel in Africa

What would you prefer, being in bed with malaria, or being outside in the Masai Mara?

Many hostels/hotels/static tents have mosquito nets, but some have holes in. I always keep a roll of electrical tape which can be used to repair a broken net. Don’t forget to tuck them in, even when you’re not in them. You usually won’t need a mosquito net in a put up, put down tent, but I would keep your tent as zipped up as possible. For any other mosquito emergencies, I find a can of DOOM is the way to get rid of the nasty little suckers! 

If all of the above fails and you begin to feel fluey whilst your there, or even within a few months of returning home, get a malaria test asap. It might not be malaria, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

To get an appointment all you have to do is enter details of your trip into the boots.com quick online check tool and see whether you need malaria prevention medication and which vaccinations you might need. You can then make an appointment with a pharmacist via the Travel Health Service. To find your nearest Boots store offering these services check the store locator.

Heatstroke/Sunburn

Heatstroke can be deadly. To stay healthy, drink LOTS of water, at least 2 litres a day in hot weather. It’s tempting not to drink much so you don’t need to pee. But that will make you ill, and constipated – which is worse than having to pee in a bush or a long drop. Believe me.

Solo Woman Travel Tips Africa

Copying the kids and getting some shade!

Make sure you wear a high factor sunscreen. I usually use Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist, love this stuff, really easy to apply! I also like the Boots Soltan Range for my body, and I usually wear Clinique Super City Block Factor 40 on my face.

Cover up – keep your head and shoulders covered where possible!

Bilharzia (schistosomiasis)

This is a parasite infection that you can get from water, either by swimming in it or drinking it. Ways to prevent it include drinking bottled or boiled water and avoid bathing/swimming in fresh water where a lot of people live along the shore i.e. some parts of Lake Malawi (however it’s ok to swim off the islands in the middle of the lake). Do your research and ask your guide or at your accommodation about whether it is safe to swim.

Diarrhoea/Vomiting

Delhi Belly, Montezuma’s Revenge, Traveller’s Tummy – whatever you want to call it, it’s likely that this will happen at some point. It sucks, but it’s a right of passage for most travellers.

This is often caused by food – which unless you just eat the pre-packaged stuff (urgh), it’s going to be hard to avoid. I’ve rarely had a problem eating local foods. In Africa I eat chapatis, samosas, rice and beans, plantain, ugali/nshima from street stalls and container restaurants all the time and I’ve been fine. Perhaps just avoid the usual suspects… thin skinned fruits and veg, salads, undercooked meat and unclean looking food prep areas. This really is a judgement call, and you will know the sesitivity of your stomach and sometimes it can just be the luck of the draw.

View of Cape Town - Helen in Wonderlust

I’m smiling here, but I was actually quite ill and had barely eaten for days!

One of the other most common reasons for people to get sick when travelling is not washing their hands properly. Wash your hands before you eat (or use anti-bacterial wipes if no running water) and keep a bottle of hand gel with you. I like to take a nail brush to make sure my hands are extra clean.

If you do get sick, the best thing to do keep yourself hydrated and take electrolytes to help you replace lost salt and sugar in your body. If it doesn’t go after a couple of days, get yourself to a clinic for some medicine. If you have a long  journey you have to take, there’s always Imodium!

Water

There will be some places where it is not advisable to drink the water. Ask at your accommodation and if in doubt, drink bottled water and use it to brush your teeth with it too! Water is available to buy from street stalls, shops, tourist attractions and hotels or you could sterlise your on water by boiling or using a steripen.

How to Stay Healthy on Your Travels

Saw this sigh AFTER we’d started brushing!

I once got a lovely case of giardia from some dirty water. That was lovely. Not. Ended up about a half a stone lighter (every cloud and all that), but it was really unpleasant and required some strong anti-biotics.

STI’s

Avoid Morning Sex Africa

Oh, and avoid morning sex apparently!

It’s easy to let your guard down when you travel, but this should go without saying. Use contraception and always practice safe sex!

Kit

I always carry a travel first aid kit with me, usually with my own needles.

Then there’s all the other stuff I’ve mentioned above or on my packing list posts – my mozzie bites cream, antiseptic cream, Imodium, sun lotion, Dioralyte etc.

Then there’s all my beauty essentials… may need to write a seperate post on that!

So there you go, that’s how I prepare before I go, and try to prevent as I go. Please don’t let these things stop you from going on amazing travels around the world!  Almost everything I’ve listed above is preventable and/or treatable.

Boots

Yay, cool holiday stuff! Especially loving my new foldaway backpack!

So this summer, whether you’re going near or far, Boots is a bit of a one stop shop for all your travel needs – they even have things like foldaway backpacks, locks, inflatable pillows and earplugs! Just head down to your local store and they’ll sort you right out!!

This post is sponsored by the good folks at Boots, but all views, as always, are completely my own.