Unwanted Travel Souvenirs – Getting Sick On Vacation

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Lizzie Lau

Everyone who travels should be aware of the possibility of getting sick on vacation.  Some parasites don’t cause symptoms immediately, so even if you feel sick weeks after a trip to Mexico, you should let your doctor know to test for things you may have picked up on your travels.

I Ate What?

Having spent extended periods of time in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, I have firsthand experience with several illnesses that are common in those areas.  I can also debunk the myth that locals are immune to them.  The first time I had a parasite while living in Mexico, it was my local friends who laughed and told me what to do.  It turns out that most of them took “the cure” several times a year.  In fact, whenever they would start to feel lousy, they would first drop a stool sample off at the lab to rule out “bichos”, Spanish slang for bugs.  The truth is, we’re always full of parasites, but most of them don’t bug us.  The ones that cause problems are usually introduced by poor sanitation.  For example, I had Giardia while living in Cozumel, and got it from eating or drinking something contaminated with poop.  It makes it really hard to go out to eat after finding that out.  During the 6 years I lived there, I had to deal with amoebas a couple of times, and one brutal case of food poisoning that landed me in a clinic hooked up to IV fluids on Christmas day.

The Only Good Mosquito Is A Dead One

Honduras offered a different kind of parasite, carried by mosquitoes.  Fortunately, the malaria that is common in this area is curable with medication that kills the blood-borne parasite.  During my 5 years on the island of Roatan, just about everyone I knew suffered through several bouts of malaria.  It was the island version of the flu. The difficulty was in diagnosing it because the parasites go through dormant phases, so patients have to get to the clinic for a blood test when they feel their worst to catch the little buggers in action.

Dengue, also known as Break-bone Fever, is also common on the Bay Islands.  I watched my (ex) husband writhing on the couch for weeks suffering from that illness.  Also carried by mosquitoes, this is a virus that doesn’t have a treatment or a vaccine.  Symptoms include deep muscle and joint pain, fever, headaches, and a rash.  This is an awful virus that you just have to suffer through with Tylenol and a lot of Gatorade.  The doctor who diagnosed my husband told him that a subsequent bout of dengue would be much, much worse, even fatal.  Fortunately, there were no cases on the island of the really serious dengue hemorrhagic fever, which causes bleeding, blood plasma leakage, and the lowering of blood platelet levels.

Vacations are a time to relax, unwind, and enjoy a break from the stresses of daily life. Unfortunately, getting sick on vacation can quickly turn a dream trip into a nightmare. Whether it’s a minor inconvenience or a more serious illness, getting sick on vacation can be a challenging experience. In this article, we’ll discuss some common causes of illness on vacation and offer tips for preventing and dealing with sickness while traveling.

Common Causes of Illness on Vacation

There are several reasons why people may become ill while on vacation. Some of the most common causes include:

Exposure to new bacteria and viruses: When traveling to a new place, you may be exposed to new bacteria and viruses that your body is not used to. This can lead to a variety of illnesses, including stomach bugs, respiratory infections, and skin rashes.

Food and waterborne illnesses: Eating and drinking contaminated food and water can also cause illness while on vacation. This can happen when eating street food, drinking tap water, or consuming ice made from tap water.

Overexertion: Vacation activities like hiking, swimming, and sightseeing can take a toll on the body, especially if you’re not used to being active. Overexertion can lead to muscle strains, dehydration, and even heat stroke.

Tips for Prevention of Getting Sick on Vacation

Get vaccinated: Before traveling, make sure you’re up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations. This is especially important if you’re traveling to a region with a higher risk of certain diseases, such as yellow fever or malaria.

Wash your hands: Proper hand hygiene is crucial for preventing the spread of germs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating or touching your face.

Be cautious with food and water: Avoid drinking tap water and only eat food from reputable sources. If you’re unsure about the quality of the water, drink bottled water or bring a water filter with you.

Pace yourself: Don’t try to do too much too quickly. Give yourself time to adjust to the new environment and pace yourself with activities.

Get enough rest: Make sure you’re getting enough rest and taking breaks when needed. This will help prevent exhaustion and keep your immune system strong.

Tips for Dealing with Illness on Vacation

Seek medical attention: If you’re feeling unwell, seek medical attention right away. Many hotels have on-site doctors or can refer you to a nearby medical facility.

Stay hydrated: If you have a stomach bug or are experiencing diarrhea, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and electrolyte solutions to replenish lost fluids.

Take it easy: Resting and taking it easy can help your body recover more quickly. Avoid overexertion and take breaks as needed.

Pack a travel health kit: Consider packing a travel health kit with items like pain relievers, anti-diarrheal medication, and a first-aid kit.

Always buy travel insurance: Travel insurance can provide peace of mind in case of unexpected illness or injury while on vacation. Be sure to read the policy carefully to understand what is covered and what is not.

Getting sick on vacation can be a frustrating and stressful experience, but with some careful planning and preparation, you can minimize your risk of illness and know what to do if you do fall ill. Remember to take care of your health and prioritize your well-being, even when on vacation. By taking a few simple precautions, you can enjoy a safe and healthy trip wherever you go.