Staving Off The Sniffles At The Rio Olympics

RS - ENCANTADO - 05/07/2016 - REVEZAMENTO DA TOCHA OLIMPICA RIO 2016 - Revezamento da Tocha Olímpica para os Jogos Rio 2016. . Foto: Rio2016/Andre Luiz Mello
Relay Torch Olimpica Rio 2016 – Olympic Torch Relay for Rio 2016 Games. Photo Credit: Andre Luiz Mello

With the Rio OIympics just around the corner, there are plenty of reasons to be excited.  Fans will travel from all corners of the globe to watch this internationally glorified event, and they have a good reason to.  The Olympic games have long been among the most sensational sporting events in the world and give countries a chance to show off the physical prowess and preparedness of their best athletes, a task that was once fulfilled by war and conquest, with civility and integrity.

However, while countries have made leaps and bounds towards creating a safer, more peaceful world, nature simply refuses to play along.  In Brazil, notably, the infamous Zika virus is still at large and with the Rio games continuing regardless, taking care of one’s health while traveling has become high on many people’s priorities.

But while many travel guides have been made to prepare spectators for the Zika virus, few have taken the opportunity to read up on what else they can do.  Everybody knows to use hand sanitizer and to avoid the yellow snow, but some major health risks can be a lot more innocuous.

The first step to a healthy trip is taken before the plane even lifts off.  It’s important to get vaccinated for any possible diseases.  As far as Rio is concerned, the CDC suggests keeping up with your routine vaccines and getting vaccinated for Hepatitis and Typhoid.  The CDC also recommends asking your doctor about other vaccines, which may vary depending on where you plan on going and for how long.

But vaccines are only the first of many preparations one must make.  Many people will wake up much earlier than usual in order to catch a flight, or may have stayed up late packing their bags.  Sleep deprivation can hinder the body’s immune system, even though few people tend to see it that way, and every minute counts.  There will be plenty of time to watch that “How-To: Homemade Donuts” video tomorrow, get that extra sleep tonight – your body will thank you.

It is also a good idea to do your homework ahead of time.  Take the time to learn if your health insurance will cover you during your trip.  If not, consider purchasing travel health insurance if your budget will allow it – it may pay off in the near future.  On the subject of purchases, it is also a good idea to check with the Brazilian embassy (or the embassy of whatever country you intend to travel to) to make sure all of your prescription drugs are legal.  If a vital prescription is illegal, you will want to consult your doctor.

While you’re at it, check with your doctor and make sure you have all of the medicine you’ll need for your trip.  It would also be smart to check where the local doctors and hospitals are and how you can best access them.  Should you fall desperately ill, it will be crucial that you seek medical help as soon as possible to minimize the damage.  All of this might seem a tad overkill, but these are in fact only the steps leading up to the trip, there is much more to be done once the plane lands.

After arriving, tap water can quickly become an issue that few would expect. Despite Brazil’s continued efforts to clean up its water, the Brazilian government can hardly even claim it’s cleaned up half of the sewage-ridden beaches of Rio, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of its assurances.  Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in America has its doubts, advising travelers against drinking Rio’s tap water. This issue is made worse because foreign water will have minerals and other chemicals that travelers’ bodies just aren’t used to, which can be surprising to some people who come from countries where they regularly drink tap water.  Basically, don’t drink anything that would give you any reason to think twice about it.

For those same reasons, it’s best to avoid fountain drinks, as they are usually made from tap water.  Painful as it may be to pass up that Diet Coke, it would be far more painful to miss the game because of a fever.  The same goes for anything that might be made with tap water, including ice.

Water isn’t the only concern travelers should have.  While food vendors have long been a source of constant amusement and fun dares among foreigners, it is generally advised not to eat anything from street vendors, even if it seems clean and well cooked, as it’s often impossible to tell where that turtle meat wrapped in newspaper really came from.  Parents tell children not to put strange things in their mouths, the same policy should apply for grown-ups.  You’ll be better off enduring the somewhat less exciting packaged foods and reputable restaurants.

A healthy traveler is also wary of their hotel’s dishes and utensils.  It is advisable to clean the dishes that you get on your own if you have any reason to suspect they haven’t been cleaned properly.  This can be anything from the odd brown spot to residue left on the plate.  There’s pretty much no excuse not to take this precaution, it’ll only take a few minutes and you can finish your meal with peace of mind.

These aren’t all of the ways travelers can get sick in another country, but the same concept applies to any source of sickness.  If you have to think twice about it, avoid it if at all possible, and take any precautions you can such as vaccines and getting plenty of sleep.  When it comes to something as big as the Olympic Games, you’ll want to cheer your team to victory on the field; but before you can do that, you’ll need to beat the germs on your own field.  And when the germs are losing, everybody wins.

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