By Mitch Lipka
Feb 27 (Reuters) - When you travel a lot - particularly when the journeys involve going to unfamiliar places many time zones away - your health can make the difference between a successful trip and an awful one.
Just ask Bob Costas, who arrived in Sochi to be the main host of NBC’s prime time Olympic coverage, and ended up on the sidelines for nearly a week with an eye infection.
Being sick on the road could be costly to both business travelers and tourists alike, who could find themselves spending more time in bed than doing what they planned. Here are some of the tricks that veteran travelers have picked up on the road.
1. Plan ahead
Heather Holmes, who works for the medical device company Medtronic Inc, regularly puts in more than 100,000 miles a year on long flights to such places as China and India. She takes her preparations very seriously, starting as much as a month or two in advance.
As soon as she knows her destination, Holmes - who’s in her 30s - heads first to a travel clinic at a local hospital near her home base in Chicago. These can be found in many cities and dispense any needed vaccinations and medicines to deal with diseases specific to where you are traveling, such as anti-malaria drugs.
If there’s no clinic like this near you, you can get information about the risks of specific illnesses and diseases you might encounter by using free services including Sitata.com, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel site ().
2. Soup up your toiletry kit
After some nasty itching from tree pollen in Nicaragua, where there was not a Walgreen’s or CVS on every corner, North Carolina-based travel writer Katie Jackson, 24, learned the hard way about why it’s important to bring along your own over-the-counter treatments. A foot injury on a Greek island, where she had trouble finding pain medicine, cemented the idea for her about being prepared.
Now she packs a hearty kit of over-the-counter medications and supplies, including hydro-cortisone cream, Benadryl, contact solution, wipes that can be used as a shower alternative, and zinc lozenges intended to lessen the duration of a cold.
To avoid common digestive problems from foreign food that can be tricky to deal with in remote locales, she drinks bottled water when traveling and sticks mainly to packaged dry foods - including crackers, nuts and cereals. Still, Jackson says it’s worth identifying where bathrooms are wherever you’re going to be in case you are on the wrong side of that battle.
Holmes’ kit includes Band-aids, Benadryl, antiseptic ointment, hydro-cortisone, sleeping pills, moistened wipes, anti-bacterial hand wash, sunscreen, and bug spray. “By traveling with all of this stuff I‘m prepared for most anything that I could encounter on the ground or in the air,” she says.
Also, before a long flight, she says she takes aspirin and wears compression socks to prevent deep vein thrombosis - and she tries to walk around when possible.
3. Eat right
Food, even before you go, can make a difference in how your hold up in your travels. Vegan chef and travel expert Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, also known as “The Healthy Voyager,” says to avoid alcohol, sugar and caffeine before flying - as well as to dodge “junky, overpriced and unhealthy airport food.”
On trips, she brings an anti-microbial sleep mask and neck pillow to help catch some shut-eye while on the road, and snacks in stainless steel containers.
4. Avoid germs
Some veteran travelers make a point of using disinfectant on items they’re likely to touch when traveling - such as hotel light switches, door handles and even the TV remote control.
New York-based actor and comedian Jim Dailakis, who regularly travels between the U.S. and Australia says he exercises, eats well and gets plenty of sleep before hitting the road. But he also never forgets to keep his hands clean. “Hand sanitizer is incredibly important to me. If I can’t wash my hands with soap and water, I’ll always use hand sanitizer.”
And when he does use a restroom, he uses the paper towel that he dried with to open the door. “Some people might not wash their hands after they’ve gone to the bathroom,” Dailakis says.
5. Check your insurance
Robert Wheeler, chief medical officer for New Hampshire-based On Call International, a paid service that provides emergency travel assistance, says to check with your medical insurance company about what they would cover when you’re abroad. It’s also important to identify hospitals and pharmacies at your destination that have been identified as having Western standards.
Wheeler puts a lot of emphasis on drinking plenty of water. He says he drinks between eight and 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day before, during and after traveling because getting dried out makes the body less effective fighting off viruses and bacteria.