Getting sick while traveling is the worst. No one wants to swap time exploring a new place with hours spent coughing and sneezing in a hotel room.
Unfortunately, you might be exposing yourself to germs in some unexpected ways. Here are a few things you might be doing while traveling that could be making you sick.
You ask for ice cubes in your drink.
Seasoned international travelers likely know that tap water in some parts of the world can contain bacteria that could make you sick. As a post on Good To Go Travel Insurance pointed out, it’s easy to forget that ice cubes are made from tap water.
Though people who live in the area might think nothing of loading up their glass with ice cubes, they likely have some immunity to any pesky microbes in the water. Avoid a potential bellyache (or worse) and stick to mixed drinks with no ice if you have any doubts about the local supply.
You keep your phone and water bottle in the seatback pocket.
Airplane seats aren’t exactly roomy, so using the seatback pocket in front of you to store personal items seems like a good way to keep things tidy.
However, those pockets could be harboring all sorts of germs. Many passengers use these pockets to stash snack wrappers, bits of food, and even diapers. A study from Auburn University sound that MRSA bacteria can survive on the cloth of seatback pockets for up to seven days. MRSA is a “superbug” that is resistant to antibiotics and can cause everything from skin lesions to death.
Keep your belongings and hands away from your seatback pocket to avoid contact with potentially harmful germs.
You don’t wash the glasses in your hotel room before using them.
- Eddie Chiu
Many hotels provide drinking glasses, but you might want to give those glasses a quick wash before raising them to your lips.
Though most health departments in the US require that all glassware in hotel rooms be sanitized in a dishwasher or by a special manual process, an investigation by ABC News found that 11 out of 15 hotels failed to clean the glasses in their guest rooms.
To minimize the risk of contracting something nasty from your hotel drinking glass, ask for pre-wrapped plastic cups or replacement glasses when you first check in.
You drink excessive amount of alcohol.
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We all know that boozing it up can lead to a hangover, but that’s actually not the only way that drinking heavily while traveling can make you feel ill.
“Excessive drinking during vacation can certainly inhibit your immune system and back up the detoxification system, leading to a virus or bacterial infections,” pharmacist Inna Lukyanovsky told Greatist.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cocktail or two on vacation, but try not to stress out your immune system by overindulging.
You opt for a cheap meal at an empty restaurant.
Traveling is expensive. Between airfare, accommodation, and feeding yourself between adventures, it’s easy to see the appeal of a cheap menu.
However, a post on Dover Downs warned that sitting down to a meal at a deserted restaurant is just asking for trouble. A high number of locals means that the food is more likely to be tasty, and a crowd of tourists translates to high turnover and fresher ingredients. If your prospective dinner spot looks abandoned, it could mean that the food isn’t up to par.
You don’t notice how much coffee you’re drinking.
- Drew Coffman/Unsplash
A cup or two of coffee before heading to the airport, a can of energy drink to fight jet lag once you arrive, all those cappuccinos from adorable local cafés … going on vacation can sometimes mean a big increase in your caffeine intake.
The Mayo Clinic also advises that anything over 400 mg of caffeine per day for adults can lead to insomnia, migraines, upset stomach, or irritability. If you want to kick back and relax on your holiday, keeping your caffeine habit in check is a good idea.
You forget to hydrate properly.
Staying hydrated is an important part of keeping healthy while traveling, especially if you’re spending any time on a plane.
“During the flight, you lose a lot of water from your body due to dry, air-conditioned air in the plane. The humidity is in the interval of 10 – 20 %, like a desert. Researchers show that during 10-hour flight you lose from 1.6 to 2 liter of water – it’s about 4% of water in your body. If you will skip drinking enough water, soon you will feel fatigue and your head will start to ache,” Lucas Paluch of the Lean Traveller Guide previously told INSIDER.
Keep a water bottle handy and gulp away to stay in peak condition for your trip.
You jump time zones without resting in between.
- Shutterstock/Iryna Rasko
Overnight flights and international travel can often lead fitful dozing in cramped airplane seats and wacky sleep schedules. This disruption in your normal sleep patterns can actually leave you vulnerable to picking up a nasty cold.
“I think you could say fairly that sleep deprivation will slightly weaken your immune system, [and] could make you a little more prone to get things like a head cold,” professor of family medicine and global health Christopher Sanford told Popular Science.
Be sure to prioritize getting adequate rest on the road to prevent losing valuable vacation time to illness.
You wash all your food in tap water.
It’s a smart idea to clean any fresh produce you intend to eat, but washing it with tap water could expose you to bacteria lingering in the water supply. According to the National Health Service in the UK, this kind of contamination often happens with salads and uncooked produce.
You choose the aisle seat on your flight.
For tall people and claustrophobic fliers, the aisle seat is undoubtedly appealing. However, germaphobes might want to sit by the window.
According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, you have the best chance of avoiding catching a cold on a plane if you choose a window seat. The study also found that limiting your movements around the cabin, e.g. not using the restroom, also reduces your exposure to germs.
You turn off the air vent over your plane seat.
Planes can be notoriously chilly places, but turning off your overhead air vent might actually be a bad move if you want to avoid catching a cold.
Dr. Mark Gendreau, medical director and vice chair of emergency medicine at Lahey Medical Center-Peabody, told Travel + Leisure that the tiny vent above actually creates an invisible air barrier that blocks virus particle from landing on you.
Bring a sweater and open up that air vent for a chance to repel your sneezing neighbor’s germs.
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