How to Recognize and Prevent Illness While Traveling

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Traveling expands your horizons and enriches your soul, but it’s no vacation for your immune system. Take extra care of your health before, during and after jet-setting to steer clear of illnesses. This kind of prevention is a priority for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, too, as they travel internationally in October.

Why Traveling Raises Your Risk of Illness

Being in tight quarters, like in airplanes, buses and trains, with so many other people makes you more susceptible than usual to airborne illnesses and conditions spread by germs.

Traveling to other countries — like the Bucs when they go to London in October — can also expose you to potential dangers that aren’t top of mind when planning your trip.

You may be more likely to get an infection in other countries for various reasons, including:

  • Fewer vaccinated people, making infectious diseases more common
  • Poor infrastructure, leading to contaminated food and water
  • Warmer weather, which allows bacteria, parasites and mosquitos to thrive

Common Travel-Related Illnesses

The most common conditions contracted during travel are:

  • Colds
  • Diarrheal diseases from contaminated water
  • Flu
  • Infections, such as food poisoning from contaminated foods

While these conditions usually aren’t serious, they can worsen, and even become dangerous, if your body gets dehydrated.

Other common diseases include fevers, like yellow fever or dengue fever, which often spread through mosquitos or other insect bites. If you get any of these conditions, controlling the fever is vital to preventing serious complications.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Travel-Related Sicknesses

You’re likely familiar with cold and flu symptoms, but you might not be sure what to look for with infection or parasitic illnesses. Symptoms from an infection generally appear within a few hours or days. However, in some cases, infection symptoms can appear much later than you’d think — like after you’ve already returned home.

If you experience common travel-related conditions like food poisoning or a diarrheal disease, you may have symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Fevers, viral illnesses or parasitic illnesses may cause symptoms like:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Pain
  • Rash
  • Respiratory infection

If you’ve traveled to another country recently and experience these symptoms, don’t wait to see your primary care physician.

Preventing Sickness While Traveling

Your efforts to stay healthy and well during your trip should start before you even board the plane. At least eight weeks before your departure, discuss your travel plans with your primary care physician or a physician who specializes in travel medicine.

Your doctor can help you:

  • Get a prescription for medicines that can prevent illness
  • Learn about food and water precautions that can keep you safe
  • Receive any special vaccinations
  • Update your vaccinations

While traveling, you can take precautions such as:

  • Avoiding swimming in freshwater
  • Drinking only bottled water
  • Preparing your own food or only eating at trusted restaurants
  • Sleeping underneath a mosquito net
  • Taking any preventive medicines your doctor prescribes
  • Washing your hands often
  • Wearing mosquito repellant

Treating Travel-Related Illnesses

If you feel sick during or after traveling, don’t ignore your symptoms. You may need to see a doctor who specializes in infectious diseases for diagnosis and treatment of travel-related infections. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and where you’ve traveled recently.

Treatment for travel-related infections can vary widely depending on the condition and how severe it is. You may be able to receive care at home or may need to be admitted to a hospital.

Based on your symptoms, your doctor may:

  • Take stool and blood samples to understand which infection you have
  • Use medicines, including antibiotics or antifungal medicines, to treat your condition
  • Recommend medicines like acetaminophen to help low fever and control pain

If you have a diarrheal disease or experience vomiting, it’s important that you drink water, electrolyte sports drinks or broths to help replenish your fluids and prevent dehydration.

Post-Travel Care in Tampa Bay

Within 6 weeks this season, the Buccaneers will travel over 20,000 miles. After each game, they check-in with their healthcare team to ensure they are healthy and in top shape for their next match up. If you’ve been traveling, too, either abroad or otherwise, check in with your health care provider before hitting the stands in Tampa Bay.

If you’re feeling ill after traveling, speak to your primary care physician or visit an infectious disease physician if your doctor recommends one. If your primary care physician is not available, visit a local urgent care like AdventHealth Express Care at Walgreens in the Tampa Bay area.

Learn more about how AdventHealth and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers partner together to improve the health and wellness of each person in the Tampa Bay community.

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