Staying Healthy On Your Gap Year

Stay healthy on your gap year

Staying Healthy On Your Gap Year

Staying healthy on your gap year is vital if you are to enjoy every last moment of your gap year experience. It's important you take precautions such as visiting your GP or travel clinic well before your departure, but even on the best planned gap years you may experience a few health hiccups.

Gap year health concerns

Taking precautions to avoid malaria is a major consideration if you are travelling to far-flung destinations, and your GP will be able to advise you about anti-malaria medication and other precautions you can take. An upset tummy, sickness and diarrhea are also among the most common complaints for travellers. It can be one of the few downsides of travelling and can be frustrating if it affects your trip or delays your plans. The best advice is to try your best to avoid getting sick in the first place! However, there are some basic precautions you can put in place to prevent getting sick while you are abroad.

Here are a few top tips about how to stay healthy on your gap year:

Food and Drink

  • Carry anti-bacterial hand gel with you and use it frequently. Some toilets overseas don't have soap. You can use this gel to wash your hands after going to the toilet and before eating.
  • Ensure the local water is safe to drink. If it's not, or if you're not sure, drink bottled water. Check the seal is not broken. If this is not possible then make sure the water has been boiled and left to cool. You can also buy water purification tablets and iodine which makes water safe for drinking. Make sure you read the instructions carefully.
  • If the local water is unsafe then be careful not to swallow any when you brush your teeth or shower.
  • Avoid ice in drinks unless you're sure that it's been made from treated water.
  • As a general rule, stick to foods that have been cooked and make sure any meat has been well cooked.
  • Make sure fruit and vegetables have been washed in safe water. If in doubt peel it yourself.
  • Avoid unpasteurised dairy products.
  • Think again about ordering seafood if you are a long way from water or the coast. At the very least check where it has come from. Seafood goes off quickly, especially in hot weather.
  • Avoid raw or undercooked shellfish.
  • When you arrive at a new destination, introduce new foods to your body slowly. Let your body get used to a new diet and climate.
  • Don't touch food that has been exposed to flies.
  • Avoid cafes and restaurants that are empty or really quiet. It's best to get recommendations for the best places to eat from the staff at your accommodation.
  • Street food is great especially if you can see it cooked fresh right in front of you. Avoid food that has been left in the heat or has been out all day.
  • Sometimes it's best to avoid meat all together, especially if you are unsure when and how it has been cooked or you don't know what animal it actually came from.

Look after yourself

If you are unlucky enough to fall ill, then you should make sure you re-hydrate properly, and drink plenty of fluids such as sugary tea and soup. You may need to seek out medical advice, and the sooner you get any problems treated, the sooner you can carry on enjoying your gap year. If you do get a stomach upset you should:

  • Drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Take some re-hydration packs with you so that you can quickly replace lost electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.
  • Eat bland food in small quantities

Most diarrhea should go within 36 hours. If the condition persists then visit a doctor or medical clinic. You can buy diarrhea tablets such as Imodium, which can help stop you up. It's best only to take these if you have to go on a long journey and won't have easy access to a toilet. If you do have a bug it is often best to get rid of it rather than keep it inside you, plus taking these tablets can make you constipated for a few days.

Don't forget the rest!

There are other important health considerations too, such as making sure you practice safe sex while you are away and make sure you keep your skin protected by enjoying the sunshine safely. Stay healthy and don't let a tummy bug ruin your gap year adventure!