Staying Healthy Abroad
Severe air pollution is a significant health concern in several major metropolises across the world. Students, staff and faculty who travel to places like Beijing, Mexico City or New Delhi will likely encounter days when air particulates are dense, causing potential travel disruptions and increased health risks.
When air quality readings reach “unhealthy” or “hazardous” levels, Baylor travelers can mitigate against some of the ill effects by following the tips below:
- Know the possible health effects of air pollution (e.g. itchy eyes, throat or nose; coughing; trouble breathing; headaches; chest pain, etc.) and the impact of seasonal changes
- Consult with your personal physician if traveling to an area with poor air quality as travelers with pre-existing respiratory illnesses will be more susceptible to serious health consequences from high levels of smog
- Monitor air quality readings provided by AirNow, the World Health Organization, BeijingAir or AQICN
- Refrain from vigorous outdoor exercise when air quality levels are unhealthy
- Consider donning a facemask with a rating of N95 or above to reduce the amount of air particulates that may be inhaled
- Monitor flight information for the latest updates on delays or cancellations
- consider purchasing an air purifier for your accommodation site for long-term stays abroad
An important part of maintaining good health abroad is eating and drinking properly – stay hydrated! Remember that in addition to the cultural and emotional adjustments, your body will be adjusting to a new climate, new time zone, new food, etc. and eating right, exercising and getting rest will help ease that adjustment.
“High altitude" generally describes locations 8,000 feet above sea level and higher; however, altitude sickness can impact anyone traveling from one altitude to a notably higher one. Awareness is necessary because at this elevation oxygen levels are lower and can cause difficulties for travelers. Many higher-altitude tourist destinations, particularly those for trekking and adventure sports, are remote and may lack access to medical care. For more information, read a report on traveling in high altitudes from the U.S. Department of State.
Travelers accustomed to the relatively cool climate of Evanston may have difficulty adjusting to tropical or desert environments known for high temperatures or humidity. Dehydration is a real and serious risk for travelers, so be sure to have enough cool water on hand to stay hydrated. Try to complete activity-intensive tasks in the morning or early evening when the sun is less direct, and don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat! For more information, read a report on travel and the dangers of excessive heat by the U.S. Department of State.
It’s never too early to start protecting yourself from skin cancer. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, and repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV rays) increased one’s risk. Regular application of sunscreen can block these harmful rays. The Mayo Clinic recommends that lotions or sprays with an SPF of 30 are sufficient, when applied properly (and reapplied after two hours, especially after swimming for long durations). Read more about these recommendations on the Clinic’s website at Best Sunscreens: Understanding Your Options.
Travelers can take other steps to prevent overexposure to sunlight, including wearing a hat as well as lightweight, light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs. For those who need to spend several hours in direct sun collecting samples or conducting field research, it may be worth investing in some sun-protective clothing.