Staying healthy whilst travelling has always been a concern, from contracting malaria in mosquito-ridden countries, to worrying about getting rabies from a small bite from a stray dog, to simply experiencing a dodgy tummy from eating something your body isn’t used to. What with the SARS epidemic in 2003 and swine flu rearing its ugly head more than once over recent years, travellers are more aware than ever of taking precautions to ensure that they stay healthy whilst abroad. However, there are lots of myths when it comes to travel health so here’s our guide to sorting the fact from the fiction when it comes to travel health.
Myth: Hand sanitisers remove dirt, kill all bacteria and prevent diseases
Fact: Whilst hand sanitisers are great for throwing in your backpack when you may not have access to soap and water, they don’t actually remove dirt. When your hands are visibly soiled there’s really no substitute for good old soap and water. What hand sanitisers are good for is killing the majority of bacteria and viruses – look for one which contains at least 60% alcohol.
Myth: I could catch a contagious disease through the recirculated air on planes
Fact: 50% of the air on most planes is fresh and the other 50% is filtered so the air quality on your average aircraft is far better than you may think. Of course, being in a confined space – whether a cinema, a rush hour train, or indeed an airplane – will put you at greater risk of contracting something from an infected person. Plane passengers are also more likely to be dehydrated and tired, both of which can weaken the immune system and put you at greater risk of falling ill, so avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water. The bottom line is that it isn’t the air that puts you any more at risk of falling ill but the dry air can be uncomfortable, especially if you wear contact lenses. Dry eyes can be a real problem on planes so bring your glasses or consider laser eye surgery as a more permanent solution.
Myth: Bedbugs are only a problem in rundown, dirty hotels
Fact: With the rise in international travel, bedbugs have become a real problem and, unfortunately, they are found in even the most upmarket hotels. Bedbugs hitch rides on clothing or in luggage so are easily transported from one hotel to another. How can you spot them? Before you hop into bed, pull back the sheets and look for telltale signs on the mattress and sheets such as tiny stains from bug faeces or blood from squashed bugs. To prevent them from hitching a lift back home with you, keep your suitcase off the floor. If you do get bitten, don’t panic – the bites will itch but, unlike those from mosquitoes or ticks, they won’t transmit any nasty diseases.
Myth: Popping an aspirin before a flight will prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis
Fact: This is one of the most widely held travel health myths out there and is just that – a myth. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the theory that aspirin will prevent DVT. Potentially fatal blood clots form as a result of being inactive for long periods of time so, instead, ensure that you remain mobile throughout the flight, wear loose clothing, and consider pulling on compression socks.