In 1985, my folks took me to Jamaica.  It was a wonderful trip, but I picked up some kind of horrible bug, and spent the last half of the vacation in the bathroom of the hotel, praying for relief.  I didn’t get better for almost a month after we returned home.

Last fall, Tom and I went to Sanibel Island, and I had a nasty systemic reaction to jellyfish larvae.  I had a rash on my legs that lasted weeks, and was worse than any other itchy crisis I’ve ever experienced.

Just this month, I caught a cold in Hawaii, and ended up sicker than a junkyard dog.  It turns out that this nasty cold has been going around all over the country, and lots of people are complaining about it.

None of these stories even begins to compete with the time I returned from vacation only to pick up chicken pox, influenza and pneumonia, all within a six week period back in the 90’s.

There’s something about travel that really throws your immune system for a loop.  I’ve been reading up on the internet to see if there’s anything that can be done about it.  Clearly, washing hands is a must, especially after handling money.  Getting proper sleep is important.  So is right (something I probably do better with on vacation than at home).   Keep hydrated on long walks, and use sunscreen.  After my bout with pneumonia, a doctor asked me if I had been “hanging laundry outside, ” something I laughed off.  However, I’m sure that hypothermia, dehydration, and sunstroke will not help your immune system handle stray viruses.

My Jamaican experience was probably some kind of parasitic infection from a local water fall.   I’ve been told that the best way to avoid this is avoid ingesting water from natural sources.  Let it go through at least the local water treatment plant.

Our Sanibel trip taught me that it’s really important to rinse sea water off as soon as you come in from ocean swimming.   Jelly fish larvae is not always visible to the eyes, and there were absolutely no warnings about it.   There is a product that you can use to protect your skin from the little buggers, but most commentators say that the creams do not provide a sufficient barrier to the stings.

I can’t imagine any way worse to spend a vacation than to be drugged up or in bed sick, but it might be even worse to come home with an orthopedic injury.  Back in high school, my french class went on a trip to Paris.  As soon as I got on the plane, a very large man sat in front of me, and reclined his seat.  It was agony to walk on that knee for the next two weeks.

Keep your eyes open, and watch out for buses in the road, wash your hands, take regular warm showers, and wash your bathing suit after using it, keep hydrated and rested, and don’t drink water from streams.  Travel advice from someone who has gotten sick on vacations a lot.

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