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How to stay infection-free during holiday travel
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How to stay infection-free during holiday travel

Holiday trips or work-related tours can be fun and thrilling only if one remains infection-free
The most common infection caused by travel is UTI, and women are more at risk.
Using hand sanitizers before and after using public washrooms prevents the risk of bacterial or fungal infections.

Holiday trips or work-related tours can be fun and thrilling only if one remains infection-free. Come December, and most people are holidaying with friends and family. During a family trip, sightseeing, gorging on the local cuisines, unwinding from everyday drudgery, we become vulnerable to circulating pathogens.

One must exercise caution, especially while travelling in public transport, like train, bus to avoid respiratory infections spreading from droplets, says Dr Hari Prasanna S, Bangalore based internal medicine specialist.

Infection-free travel: Is it possible?

Older adults, women and children are at risk of developing infections after travel. Also, immunocompromised individuals, and those with diabetes or hypertension can also develop infections during or after travel, cautions Dr Sanman Gowda, consultant urologist, KMC Manipal, Mangalore.

Aiswarya Guna, a 39-year-old IT professional from Coimbatore, loves to explore new places, enjoy the local cuisines and learn the local architecture. Guna tells Happiest Health, “As much as I look forward to my every trip, I dread the aftermath too.” Travelling for long distances can increase the risk of developing infections in men, women and children alike, Guna is not excluded. She has experienced multiple episodes of Urinary tract infection (UTI) after various travels.

Common infections caused by travel

Respiratory infections:  Travelling in public transport increases the risk of lung infections such as cough and cold, explains Dr Prasanna. “Most individuals are at risk of respiratory infections spread through droplets while in closed spaces,” he adds.

Urinary Tract Infections: “The most common infection caused by travel is UTI, and women are more at risk,” points out Dr Gowda. Men can also develop UTI. “The bacteria can easily settle on women’s genital areas. Further, the larger bladder size in women will act as an ink-filler for bacteria to inhabit,” he explains.

Guna recalls that she has caught UTI multiple times during her travel, either due to unhygienic bathrooms used or by being dehydrated during travel. Travelers are often in a dilemma if they should stay dehydrated or risk their hygiene by using public washrooms. But experts advise against staying dehydrated.

Frequent travelers who are habituated to retaining urine for long hours can eventually develop urinary incontinence or urine leakage wherein small amounts of urine are leaked in regular intervals and there is no bladder control.

Fungal and bacterial infection of the skin: Skin is the largest exposed area of the body. Traveling increases the risk of fungal and bacterial infections of the skin, says Dr Kalpana Sarangi, senior consultant, Dermatology, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai. “Groin (the junction between the thighs and the lowest part of the abdomen) and the private parts are the high-risk areas for infections,” adds Dr Sarangi.

She explains, “The kind of clothes, and shoes one wears during travel can also risk physical friction, thus allergy like eczema, or skin irritation and edema or skin swelling, especially in the thighs and feet.

Other infections: “Water-borne infections and food-borne infections such as traveler’s diarrhea, typhoid, food poisoning caused by non-infectious poisons including poison mushrooms are the other common infections, adds Dr Prasanna. One must be careful about vectorborne infection like dengue and risk of malaria especially while traveling in  explains Dr Prasanna.

7 tips to stay infection-free while traveling

Experts outline the following tips to stay infection-free while travelling.

Sanitize your hand thoroughly: Bathroom doors, taps or faucets are the most common harbingers of bacteria and infections. Using hand sanitizers before and after using public washrooms prevents the risk of bacterial or fungal infections.

Ensure your toilet seat is clean:  Inadequate toilet hygiene can colonize salmonella bacteria and other pathogens in the toilet, especially in the toilet bowl, doors and taps.

While using public washrooms, one must use surface cleaning towels or sprays (antibacterial cleansers with alcohol) to clean the toilet bowl, and other surfaces before touching them.

Avoid skin contact with the toilet bowl, opt for a partial squat. Prefer indian washrooms over western commodes.

Cleaning your private area before and after urinating is a good practice.

Layer your skin for protection: Using emollient creams prevents bacteria or fungus from attacking the body. When traveling in tropical regions, one must apply sunscreen to safeguard the skin from UV rays. Also using mosquito repellent sprays or lotions can prevent infections caused by mosquito bites.

Wear comfortable accessories: One must always wear breathable and comfortable clothes and shoes. Experts recommend using cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes while traveling. Avoiding tight clothing prevents contact dermatitis. Cotton-based thermals for winter are recommended. Avoid shoes or high heels that cause shoe bites or swelling or friction dermatitis. Wearing a mask helps.

Eat and drink healthy: Remember to drink plenty of water and avoid cold food. The former helps to flush the toxins from the bladder and the latter prevents food-borne infections. Guna follows this religiously. “I drink plenty of water, and also carry hand sanitizer, surface cleaning sprays and tissue papers to clean the toilet bowls before using.”

Takeaways

  • Traveling can increase the risk of fungal and bacterial infections.
  • Cough, cold, urinary tract infections, contact dermatitis, traveler’s diarrhea are common risks.
  • Using sanitizers, cleaning the toilet bowls before using, wearing comfortable clothes and shoes, and hydrating well help.

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