Overseas Aid: Staying Healthy Abroad (Preview)

Don't let falling ill abroad ruin your race - we've come to the rescue



by Roy Stevenson

ill abroad, ill triathlon

One of the great joys of triathlon is that it gives you the perfect excuse to travel all over the world to take part in races. But if you don't make plans and take precautions you can easily fall victim to sickness or injury and all your hard work will have been in vain.

Think about it: jet lag, disorientation, unfamiliar food, contaminated water and, perhaps, a little alcohol - travelling overseas to take part triathlons offers plenty of opportunity to fall ill. But we at TW are here to help: just tell us where it hurts

Vaccines

Find out what vaccines you need in plenty of time before you travel. Here are just some of the nastiest diseases you can be exposed to: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, rabies, meningitis, yellow fever, malaria, polio, tuberculosis, dengue fever, shigella, elephantiasis, smallpox, pneumonia. If your doctor says you need immunisations for any of these diseases, get your shots.

If you are in a developing country and feel unusually ill, consult a physician for diagnosis, advice and medication. Don't put this off, hoping your symptoms will resolve themselves. Hotels often have a physician on call, or staff can contact one for you.

Jet Lag

Jet lag can flatten you: it usually manifests as shattering tiredness but it can also cause lack of energy and motivation, dehydration, interrupted sleep, digestion problems, disrupted bowel activity, headaches, irritability, irrational anger, loss of concentration, lack of alertness and disorientation - not what you want a few days before a triathlon.
You can adapt to your new time zone
by taking a few precautions before, during and after you travel.

Before you leave

Get up and go to bed earlier several days before travelling east (flying in this direction is harder on the body than going west because you feel that you're losing time), and get up and go to bed later for westward trips. Arrive at the airport refreshed and with plenty of time to spare.

On the plane


Set your watch to your destination time and eat and sleep according to that time. Drink plenty of water or fruit juice to prevent dehydration, which can worsen the effects of jet lag. For the same reason, avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

On the ground


When you arrive, take a walk outdoors in the sun (without sunglasses) to help you reset your biological clock more quickly. Early morning walks are best for this. Do not overdo any exercise because at this stage you should be following a tapering programme as race-day approaches. 

Blisters

If you develop a blister, drain the fluid with a sterile needle, wash the blistered area with warm, soapy water and apply an antiseptic cream. Cover with blister tape or a plaster.

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