Yes, there is a TOP 5 of vacation illnesses—those awful ailments that vacationers and long-term travelers dread most when away from home.

Here are the best ways to treat (and more importantly, avoid)these vacation fun busters so you can enjoy your time away as much as possible.

The Dreaded Top 5 Vacation Illnesses

  1. Upset Stomach/ GI issues
  2. Sunburn
  3. Insect Bites
  4. Headaches/Body Aches
  5. Urinary Tract Infections

Being sick on vacation is never fun.

When travelling, you leave the familiar surroundings of home and go out to explore new and exciting venues. Unfortunately, these changes in environment can result in problems such as increased sun exposure, unfamiliar insects/allergic reactions, and drastic changes in climate that weaken our defences.

Even frequent travellers may find themselves suffering from a condition called “vacation-itis”.

This occurs when your system is hit hard by unfamiliar exotic or rich foods, irregular meal times, increased alcohol consumption and increased sexual activity. Here are a few tips for taking care of these vacation illnesses before they ruin your good time away from home.

1. Upset Stomach/GI Issues

Top 5 Vacation Illnesses - How to Treat and Avoid - Stomach
Nothing ruins a trip faster than an attack of traveller’s diarrhea or other intestinal upset. Whether it’s called Montezuma’s Revenge or the Turkey Trots, being confined to the bathroom of your hotel doesn’t leave much time for sightseeing. Foreign foods and water can wreak havoc on the body’s digestive system, so it’s always good to be prepared.

One of the standards in our Travel Medicine Kit is the fast-acting anti-diarrhea medicine Imodium (loperamide). If you know GI issues are common when you travel, consider the use of a probiotic like Florastor to help prevent and shorten the duration of travel-related stomach upset. It’s recommended that you take it twice a day, starting four days before, during and for four days after the trip.

2. Sunburn

Top 5 Vacation Illnesses - How to Treat and Avoid - Sunburn
There is nothing more annoying than getting badly sunburned on the first day of your vacation. You’re miserable and you stand out as an unprepared tourist. It’s important to bring along sun protection you are already familiar with if visiting someplace where you know you’ll be spending lots of time in the sun. If you rely only on what’s available locally, you could experience a rash or be unable to find what you need in time to prevent a burn.

Use UVB and UVA sun protection for the lips, face and body when outside and don’t forget a hat or cool, long sleeves as extra protection. If you do get too much sun, packing a bottle of aloe vera gel with lidocaine will help reduce the pain. Put the bottle in the refrigerator or under cool water for especially quick relief.

3. Insect Bites

Top 5 Vacation Illnesses - How to Treat and Avoid - Insect
Just my luck, the tropical hotel is being invaded by bees! Insect bites or stings can be annoying or life threatening, depending on individual reactions. Unfortunately, these can occur anywhere and can quickly ruin a good time. If you have a known serious allergy to insect bites, please don’t forget an extra Epi-Pen prescription just in case of emergencies. Keep the Epi-Pen in your carry-on luggage to prevent luggage loss or altitude damage.

For minor insect bites or stings, bringing along an OTC antihistamine like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) will help reduce swelling and inflammation, but beware – it will make you VERY sleepy. Hydrocortisone cream is readily available in most vacation spots and can bring fast relief for itching from mosquito bites or mild skin rashes.

4. Headaches/Body Aches

Top 5 Vacation Illnesses - How to Treat and Avoid - Headache
You’re only away for a short time, so it’s important to do as much as physically possible on your precious vacation time. Unfortunately, that’s when it’s most likely to overdo the fun. Whether your body is hurting from an overindulgence of alcohol or hitting it hard on the slopes, bringing along a pain reliever when travelling is a good idea.

One of my favorites for headaches is the fast acting BC Powder which contains a pain-punching combination of aspirin and caffeine. For muscle and body aches, an anti-inflammatory product like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium will work to stop swelling commonly associated with tendon, muscle, and joint pain.

5. Urinary Tract Infections

Top 5 Vacation Illnesses - How to Treat and Avoid - UTI
This one is for the women and those who love them. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common on vacation than any other time. Not staying hydrated and increased sexual activity make some women more prone to UTIs than others.

For women who already know they are likely to have a UTI, it’s a good idea to carry a product called Cystex in your travel bag. I recommend it highly because it not only dulls the pain of the UTI with an analgesic but also has an antibacterial agent to slow the progression of the infection until you can see the doctor. It’s also considered an excellent preventative medication.

BONUS TRAVEL TIP! Avoiding Embarrassing “Jet Bloat”

Top 5 Vacation Illnesses - How to Treat and Avoid - Bloating
If you’re flying to your vacation destination, be sure to be prepared for the “jet bloat” that always occurs at the most inopportune time. This happens when the body is forced to deal with increased gas volume due to elevation gains (the higher the altitude you fly, the more the gas in the body expands). Activated charcoal capsules, like CharcoCaps, do double duty to help absorb some of the gas volume as well as the odour. Now only if your seat mates would read this tip!



Happy, Healthy Travels!

Guest writers Lisa Chavis, RPh and Cheryl MacDonald, ChPT are The Travel Pharmacist Team, providing expert health and wellness information for all of your travel destinations. Health Tips, Medical Tourism, and Spa Vacations are our speciality!

The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

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