Monday, April 19, 2010

Travel Healthy

With the World Cup fast approaching (my trusty countdown widget tells me it's 54 days away) I have to start preparing myself for the trip. Not just mentally--I would leave tomorrow if I could--but physically. And so I had to look into immunizations. This is not my idea of a good time, since I hate needles with every fiber of my being and try to avoid them like the plague. Wow, that was more cliches than I usually like to use, but they describe my emotions perfectly. Anyway I digress, so my boyfriend and I got an appointment at an immunization clinic last week, and I grudgingly entered the hospital, knowing I would come away with a lofty medical bill and a soar arm. I was sure they were going to stick me with two or three shots, but luckily I was required to get only Hepatitis A. (Since we were so on top of things and getting everything taken care of early, we were able to take the Typhoid immunization orally.) But as the doctor was telling us how to take the prescriptions and stay healthy while we were over there, I began to get nervous.

To understand why, I'll give you a quick background story: I've traveled a lot in my life, but most of the time I've gone to developed countries, and I've been with my parents. Only in the past few years have I begun to travel alone, and I've always been smart, safe. But when I was studying abroad in Rome, I came down with shingles, and my health wavered more than it ever has before. I had to take antiviral medicines three times a day for seven days. My appetite decreased to the point where I was faint throughout the day and had trouble standing. I was constantly tired, but I could barely sleep, tossing and turning throughout the night. It was so unbearable that I seriously considered cutting my semester short and going home. But I pushed through the illness and made it to the end. However, it left me paranoid about my health. Every little bump, cough, or ache, and I was in the clinic talking to the doctors. And most of the time, I was perfectly fine. It took me a couple years to get over my short stint as a hypochondriac, but this trip to South Africa has got me a little concerned.

The doctor's words keep repeating in my head: don't drink the water, don't eat any fruit or vegetables without a rind, keep applying bug spray, use bottled water when brushing your teeth, etc. It is so easy to contract a disease in underdeveloped countries if you aren't careful. But I refuse to let my worrisome ways ruin my trip. I will be cautious, of course, making sure to take all my prescriptions, packing any first aid essentials, and getting plenty of rest. However, I will not obsess over the littlest things like I usually do. As long as I take care of myself and adhere to what the doctor said, I should be fine.

I realize I am not alone in my desire for a healthy vacation, so here are some helpful articles and links you can use to make sure you're fully prepared for your next trip: International Travel, CDC, Travel and Health.

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