Why Do I Get Sick When I Travel?

Traveling opens the door to new horizons and unforgettable experiences, but it also exposes us to potential health risks. From pesky stomach bugs to unwelcome respiratory infections, encountering travel-related illnesses can quickly turn our dream trips into a nightmare. That being said, you may be asking, “Why do I get sick when I travel?”
In this blog, we’ll explore the most common travel illnesses and provide valuable insights into their causes, symptoms, and preventive measures. Whether you’re a seasoned globetrotter or a first-time adventurer, understanding these health risks and knowing how to protect yourself will be your best travel companions.

Reasons People Get Sick When Traveling

1. Jet Lag and Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Traveling across time zones can lead to jet lag, causing fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and weakened immunity. This can make individuals more susceptible to infections.

2. Exposure to New Pathogens

When people travel to different regions or countries, they may encounter viruses, bacteria, or parasites that their bodies have not experienced before. This can lead to illnesses, especially if the individual’s immune system is unprepared to fight these new pathogens.

3. Crowded Environments

Airports, airplanes, and other forms of public transportation can be crowded, which increases the risk of coming into contact with infectious agents carried by other travelers.

hot foods being served on the street

4. Food and Waterborne Illnesses

Consuming food and water from non-vetted or questionable sources that may be contaminated with pathogens can cause gastrointestinal illnesses like traveler’s diarrhea.

5. Weakened Immunity

Long journeys, stress, and changes in routine during travel can weaken the immune system, making it easier for infections to take hold.

6. Climate Changes

Traveling to places with significantly different climates can stress the body, making it more susceptible to infections.

7. Altitude Sickness

When traveling to high-altitude destinations, some individuals may experience altitude sickness due to reduced oxygen levels, resulting in headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

8. Exhaustion and Stress

The process of traveling itself can be physically and mentally taxing, leading to exhaustion and increased vulnerability to illnesses over an extended period of time.

9. Motion Sickness

Motion sickness, also known as travel sickness or kinetosis, occurs when there is a disconnect between the information received by the eyes and the inner ear’s vestibular system. When traveling, this balance may be thrown off kilter on bumpy roads or unstable modes of transportation.

sleeping man in a busy airport

How Can I Avoid Getting Sick When Traveling?

To avoid getting sick while traveling, consider implementing the following preventive measures:

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water, especially when traveling to warmer climates or during long flights. Dehydration weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to illness.

Wash Your Hands Frequently

Practice good hand hygiene by frequently washing your hands with soap and water, especially before eating or touching your face. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Eat Carefully

Be cautious about the food and beverages you consume. Avoid consuming raw or undercooked foods, and opt for freshly prepared, hot meals. Be careful with the water you drink; in areas with questionable water quality, opt for drinking bottled water over tap water and avoid ice in drinks.

Get Vaccinated

Check the recommended vaccinations for the destination you’re traveling to and make sure you’re up-to-date with routine vaccinations, like cold and flu shots.

Get Enough Rest

Prioritize getting enough sleep, especially if you’re crossing time zones. Adequate rest helps support your immune system. If you choose a window seat, you may easily catch up on sleep during plane rides. This may also help reduce motion sickness as you will have a clear view of the horizon.

Avoid Close Contact with Sick Individuals

If you notice someone around you is visibly ill, maintain distance from them to reduce the risk of exposure to their germs.

female traveler wearing a face mask at the airport

Stay Updated on Travel Advisories

Check for any travel advisories or health warnings for your destination and be prepared accordingly.

Avoid Overindulgence

Excessive alcohol consumption and overeating can weaken your immune system, so moderate your intake.

Remember that individual health and susceptibility to illness can vary, so taking these preventive measures to protect yourself while traveling is essential. If you have any specific health concerns or conditions, consider consulting your healthcare provider before starting your journey.

If you become sick during your travels and are concerned about your condition, don’t hesitate to contact a professional for assistance. 

Welcome to Austin Emergency Center!

Prevention is critical to a healthy travel experience, and by practicing good hygiene, staying informed, and taking necessary precautions, you can minimize the risk of travel-related illnesses and stay healthy. When you’re in the Austin area and feeling unwell, you can always rely on elevated care from Austin Emergency Center! Embrace traveling with confidence, knowing you’re prepared for a happy, healthy trip because Austin ER has your back.