How to Prevent Altitude Sickness, Sea Sickness, and More

Few things can ruin a vacation faster than falling ill, and getting sick while traveling can be especially annoying if it’s your trip that caused the ailment in the first place. Here are a few tried-and-trusted tips on how to prevent sea sickness, altitude sickness, and other travel-related health issues, plus a few products that will help if sickness strikes.

Altitude Sickness

Hiking in Nepal

Hiking in Nepal; Simon Matzinger/Flickr

If you’re visiting a high-altitude destination (particularly if you’re flying in from sea level), it’s a good idea to take it easy for a day or two before doing anything strenuous, like hiking or even jogging. This will give your body time to adjust to its new environment and help reduce your risk of altitude sickness drastically. If you don’t have time to acclimatize, or you just want to take a little extra precaution, you can always call your doctor for altitude sickness pills, like acetazolamide, or pack along natural alternatives such as chlorophyll supplements or so-called liquid oxygen. Others even bring their own canned air for extra boosts throughout the day. And if you’re hiking, remember to sleep at a slightly lower elevation than your highest point of the day. The CDC suggests never increasing your sleeping elevation by more than 1,600 feet (500 meters) per day.

Sea Sickness

Sailing in the Galapagos

Sailing in the Galapagos; Allan Harris/Flickr

Also known as motion sickness, sea sicknesses is common among travelers relying on boats or buses to get around; some people even get it on planes and trains. There are all sorts of preventative measures out there, from Dramamine tablets and natural alternatives such as ginger chews to pressure point wristbands, anti-motion sickness patches, and even high-tech devices like the Reliefband. It’s also a good idea to avoid reading (or using your phone) while in moving vessels and vehicles. Veteran cruisers prone to altitude sickness often try to get cabins in the middle of the ship, where the rocking effect is less pronounced.

Stomach Sickness

Whether you call it Delhi belly, Montezuma’s revenge, the trots, or something too descriptive for polite company, gastrointestinal sickness can be a real downer, especially if trying out new foods is an important part of your travel experience. Washing your hands regularly (or using hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes when you aren’t near a sink) should be your first line of prevention, while many people swear by the powers of activated charcoal supplements for keeping their digestive systems tough.

Home Sickness

Not often discussed, home sickness can strike even the most seasoned travelers. In fact, it’s a common ailment among digital nomads and people who spend a lot of time on the road. And while you may miss your family, your pet, or just the comfort of your own bed, there’s plenty you can do to keep the homesick blues from striking. Keeping photos of friends and families can help them feel closer (if you don’t want to flash your phone around every time you miss someone, consider a travel-size digital photo frame). Messenger apps such as WhatsApp are useful for keeping in touch with loved ones through text or video chat. Even a familiar snack from home might do the trick!

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