How to monitor hydration while traveling
It is incredibly easy to get dehydrated while traveling abroad. Unfortunately, the excitement a fast-paced trip often causes travelers to ignore signs of dehydration before it is too late, and many end up sick or in the hospital. These are a few of the most common reasons for dehydration while traveling abroad and what you can do to prevent it!
1. Airplane conditions
An airplane’s circulation system recycles air from outside the plane to provide clean air inside the cabin. The air at 35,000 feet has a 10-20% level of humidity in comparison with the 30-60% we are typically accustomed to. This is less than the Sahara Desert, which has an annual average of 25% humidity! These desert-like conditions, coupled with the typical stress of travel, cause us to lose water much faster than we normally would. Make sure to drink at least 8 oz of water for every hour you are flying.
2. Travelers’ diarrhea
According to the CDC, cases of traveler’s’ diarrhea range from 30-70%, depending on the season and destination. This is typically due to poor standards of food preparation and storage. Travelers’ diarrhea can cause severe dehydration if it is not carefully monitored. You can take steps to prevent TD by following the old travelers’ rule: “boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it”. Avoid dairy products, undercooked meats and seafoods, and any beverage that does not come from a sealed bottle. Destinations with the highest risk include Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America.
3. Limited water supply
We’ve all been warned not to drink tap water in a foreign country. Since bottled water can be expensive and hard to find, this may cause some travelers to opt for sodas or juices over water. Please… buy that overpriced water bottle! Saving a few bucks here and there simply isn’t worth a trip to the hospital! Invest in a quality filtering water bottle or chemical disinfectant tablets as an alternative.
4. Extra activity
You probably don’t realize how much of your life at home is spent sedentary. The lifestyle in many countries abroad is typically a bit more active by nature. You may find yourself walking or biking to destinations, or on your feet more simply due to your sightseeing schedule. If you are volunteering, you may even be doing intense physical labor in warm conditions. Take into consideration your increased physical activity as you watch your fluids!
5. Change in climate and altitude
Traveling puts you in an environment that your body may not be accustomed to. Heat, a closer proximity to the equator, higher altitudes and dry climates may all factor into your need for an increased fluid intake. In addition to drinking water, keep cool by wearing proper clothing and staying in the shade when you can.
6. Change in diet
It can be hard to opt for healthy, hydrating foods when on the go. Chips and pretzels are an easy snack for the plane and your suitcase. The smell of some deep-fried, local treat might be hard to pass up. Don’t forget to get some of your hydration through your food. Choose produce with thick peels such mangoes, pineapple, and papayas. Check out the CDC website for more tips on safe eating while abroad.
What to watch for
Early signs of dehydration might be increased thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, decreased urination, or headaches. As it worsens, dehydration may result in symptoms such as sunken eyes, muscle cramps, nausea, increased heart rate or breathing. It is absolutely critical to see if a doctor immediately if your symptoms worsen.
By carefully monitoring your fluid intake and watching for signs of dehydration you can enjoy a safer, healthier trip abroad!