Written by: Melanie Darbyshire

We’re more than half way through winter (yay!), and for many, it’s the time of year to take a vacation somewhere warm. Southern destinations – like Mexico, the Caribbean, the US Sunbelt, Hawaii and Costa Rica – beckon us to get a bit of sun, sand and humidity – a much deserved break from the cold, short days here. And while enjoying your sunny vacation, the last thing you want is to get sick – a bad illness can ruin an otherwise blissful getaway.

So how can you ensure yourself a great, sickness-free vacation for yourself and your whole family? Here are some tips for in advance of and during your vacation:

Before You Go:

  • Get your shots: Many countries have higher incidences of certain preventable diseases (ie. Hepatitis A & B). Talk to your doctor or your local travel health clinic at least six weeks before you leave to find out which vaccinations (or medications) you should get and when.
  • Pack your meds: Talk to your doctor about where you’re going and obtain medications for those illnesses you’re more likely to get such as traveller’s diarrhoea, malaria, a sunburn or an ear infection, for example. Also pack over-the-counter medications for flu, cold and fever. If you have kids (and even if you don’t), pack a small first aid kit containing bandages, antibiotic ointment, a thermometer and medicines.
  • Bring your health insurance documentation: Make sure to pack your travel insurance documentation. It’s also a good idea to pack your immunization record and a contact card of someone to contact in case you’re in an emergency.

While You’re There:

  • Wash your hands: This is a general rule all the time and everywhere, whether on vacation or not, but important to remember. Washing your hands can help you to avoid many viral and bacterial infections, many of which can ruin a vacation entirely. Another option is to carry antibacterial lotion or wipes with you – particularly useful when there is nowhere to wash your hands. Wipes are also great for cleaning surfaces on airplanes and in your hotel room/accommodation.
  • Don’t drink the water (when applicable): In some places it’s inadvisable to drink the water, since local water treatment systems are sub-par. Purchase bottle water for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth.
  • Clean your fruits and vegetables: In many countries, soil, microbes and bacteria are found on the skins of fruits and vegetables and can be contaminated, causing serious illness. To kill these, wash fruits and vegetables in an antibacterial solution. These products can be purchased in town before you go (at a camping store, for example) or when you’re there – in Mexico, common products sold in supermarkets are Microdyn and Bacdyn, both of which contain ionized silver.
  • Be smart: When in doubt, refrain from eating something suspect. Be especially aware of food that has been left out for a period of time and shared food, like in buffets.
  • Be sun smart: While the sun is often what we seek on vacation, too much of it can make us sick. A bad sunburn can ruin your best laid plans. The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends a product with a minimum SPF of 30, and reapply often. Also remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Dehydration can set in quickly, and can lead to more serious conditions like exposure, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
  • Enjoy yourself: You’re on vacation, so feel free to eat and drink what you’d like! Just keep everything in moderation and load up on healthy foods as much as indulgent ones. Tropical countries have a plethora of delicious fruits to eat (remember to wash them properly) so eat as many as them as you’d like. And seafood is plentiful when by the sea, so choose those options – they tend to be lower in calories.

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