11 Smart Tricks to Not Get Sick on a Cruise

Being stuck on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean while having tummy troubles probably isn't part of your vacation plans. Follow these tips to have an illness-free cruise.

Visit a travel health clinic before departing

cliniciStock/javi_indyYou don't want to go on a cruise only to find out that you have to stay on the ship at port because you didn't get the right vaccines. Depending on where you are going, stopping at a travel health clinic may not be necessary, but for some countries, vaccinations and certain medications, like antimalarial pills or a polio vaccine, are required. "The best solution is prevention," reminds Vicki Sowards, director of nursing resources at Passport Health. Travel health clinics are located in most cities across the country. To see if your destination requires a medical screening, visit Vaccines.gov/travel or contact your cruise line.

Bring a traveler's anti-diarrhea kit

kitiStock/hillwoman2"Better safe than sorry" has never been truer when it comes to diarrhea. You never know when the runs will strike, and traveling makes you especially susceptible to such a disaster because you're eating and drinking all sorts of new things. Having an anti-diarrhea kit in hand will save you from hours of misery should you find yourself in such a crappy (no pun intended) situation. But all jokes aside, diarrhea is extremely dangerous as it can lead to dehydration, which in severe cases can be life-threatening. Passport Health, and a few other travel clinics, sell prepackaged anti-diarrheal kits, but if you want to make your own, Sowards recommends purchasing Imodium or Loperamide "to help stop the diarrhea" and an electrolyte replacement powder, "to be mixed in bottled water. This could be an athletic drink powder or even Pedialyte," she says.

Be wary of the buffet

buffettiStock/sol_studioWhile all-you-can-eat buffets have a strong appeal, they're not always the cleanliest option when it comes to dining. Consider skipping the buffet and heading to one of your ship's other restaurants instead where your food is made to order. But if you're determined to hit up the taco Tuesday buffet, make sure hot foods are actually hot and cold foods are cold. It's easy for foods at the buffet to be left out too long or not refrigerated properly, which can cause harmful bacteria to grow. But whether you hit up the buffet or a regular restaurant, you should think twice before ordering these 13 dishes.

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Hand sanitizer will be your best friend

hand-sanitizeriStock/MypurgatoryyearsThink of all the things you touch when traveling...hand rails, elevator buttons, door handles, and that doesn't even include all the new people you will meet and hands you will shake. Before departing, make sure you are well stocked up on hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray, as you'll be coming in contact with loads of germs. While some sort of sanitizer can be found in most countries worldwide, it's often at higher price points compared to those found in the United States. "Use on hands prior to eating and after being in crowds," advises Sowards. And with all the recent norovirus outbreaks, the most common gastrointestinal bug that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, spreading on cruise ships in the past few years, you can never be too careful. Here's an updated list, from the CDC, of the cruise lines that experienced norovirus outbreaks.

Drink bottled or canned beverages

bottlediStock/mediaphotosAre you familiar with Montezuma's revenge aka traveler's diarrhea? Well it's just one of the many illnesses that can be contracted through drinking tap water and drinks not canned or bottled. You don't need to worry about this so much while on the ship, but definitely only drink bottled and canned drinks when at port. You never know the bacteria and germs lurking in a country's water, and the last thing you want is to have a giant stomachache or be non-stop puking because you drank tap water.

Remain in your cabin if you're not feeling well

cabiniStock/apomaresIt's better to miss one day of your cruise than the entire week, which is why if you're not feeling well, it's best that you sit a day out and rest. P.S. Don't feel bad about sleeping all day because sleep is almost unavoidable when you're sick. Plus, if you're contagious, you don't want to spread your virus to the entire cruise ship. If you're in extreme pain or still not feeling well after a day, you may want to consider visiting the cruise ship's doctor for a proper diagnose. And as always, seek immediate medical attention if you are facing a medical emergency.

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Wear sunscreen religiously

sun-protectioniStock/mediaphotos"Use sunscreen whenever in the sun, whether sitting on the deck, walking or just lounging," advises Sowards. "Even though it is not hot, the sun will burn." Yes, applying sunscreen is annoying and takes extra time, but getting burnt to a crisp will not only leave you in excruciating pain, but it'll also cause you to spend your days inside, and probably even ruin your cruise. Applying sunscreen and reapplying liberally can stop this from happening. Sunscreen prevents skin cancer, premature aging, brown spots, and wrinkles, so take 10 minutes out of your day and lather yourself up. And follow these seven simple sunscreen rules when doing so.

Stay hydrated

hydratediStock/kieferpixIt's easy to forget to drink fluids when you're frolicking on the cruise deck all day and splashing around in the pool with your family, but staying hydrated is crucial, especially when out in the hot sun. Headaches, sleepiness, and dizziness are the most common signs that you're not drinking enough water. But be cautious because these seven unexpected signs can also be symptoms of dehydration. It's imperative to stay on top of proper hydration because often times it's too late when you're already thirsty. Try drinking a glass of water at each meal before ordering a soda, and bring water bottles with you before heading out of your cabin for the day.

Motion sickness medication is a must

motioniStock/smartstockIf you get sick on a plane or in a moving car, you might find yourself nauseous on a moving boat. Even though cruise ships are larger, which means you're less likely to feel the moving sensation, there are definitely times when you'll hit a few speed bumps, or shall we say wave bumps. "Motion sickness can be avoided by limiting alcohol intake, and using a medication such as Dramamine or a prescription TransDerm patch," says Sowards. Most cruise ships will sell some type of motion sickness medicine on board, but consider packing it in your suitcase beforehand. If you want to go the more natural route, these six remedies are proven alleviate nausea and dizziness.

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Refrain from touching your face

touching-faceiStock/Alex_DoubovitskyThis rule should be followed on the road (or sea) and at home. One of the most common ways colds are spread is by rubbing your eyes and nose after coming in contact with bacteria and viruses that could be hiding, say on a door knob or on the serving spoon in a buffet line. In addition to catching a nasty cold, putting your dirty hands on your face can lead to breakouts and/or cause acne to spread. Essentially the oil and germs on your hands will now be all over your face. Looking for more ways to improve your skin? The top dermatologists share 13 tips on how to get healthy, young, glowing skin.

Be cautious when using public restrooms

wash-handsiStock/hxdbzxyObviously using the bathroom in your cabin is a lot cleaner than those found in other areas of the ship. But telling you to only use the one in your cabin is impractical as you'll probably be spending as little time as possible in your room. And sometimes you gotta go when you gotta go, so running to your own bathroom isn't always feasible. It's fine to use the public toilets, but just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and use a paper towel to open the door when leaving, recommends Sowards. As an extra preventative measure, squirt some sanitizer on your hands, too. Make sure you're not doing these five things that can make you sick when washing your hands.
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