TV medic Michael Mosley gives his top tips for staying healthy on holiday.

Should I see a specialist travel doctor for vaccinations, or is my regular GP sufficient?
I think in most circumstances your regular GP is going to be able to cover the area but clearly if you are going to some incredibly exotic part of the world you may want to investigate further the sort of vaccinations you need, particularly if you are at risk of things like rabies.

How do I avoid other people's germs when travelling by plane?
Now that is quite tricky! The commonest way we pick up other peoples germs is on our hands. Then we rub our eyeballs or stick our fingers up our nose and that's how the germs get transmitted. You very rarely acquire them from someone coughing in your face. Make sure you keep your hands clean and take some wet wipes with you.

How much alcohol can I drink on a long-haul flight?
Generally I try to avoid alcohol entirely because I quite often take a sleeping pill on a long haul flight and the two go together incredibly badly. On the whole it's quite difficult to resist, particularly if you are travelling and it's complimentary. But the less the better.


What effects does long-haul flying have on my body?
One of the things it does is shift your gut bacteria in an unhealthy direction. We know this from studies done with human volunteers but also rats. They found it took a couple of weeks to correct, so it's a little bit like being severely sleep deprived. The tendency is towards wanting to eat more unhealthy carbs. On an aeroplane you can eat an awful lot of junk - you can work your way through an astonishing amount of really quite hideous calories - so do look at what you are consuming.

How do I avoid jetlag?
The main thing is to try to get yourself into the time zone you are about to go to as swiftly as possible. I try to do that on the aeroplane. I do find it quite strange when I go on aeroplanes and I see people deeply asleep at what would clearly be completely the wrong time of day when they wake up the other side. I quite like overnight flights, particularly those from the States which arrive at 6am in the UK, because it means I'm going to be a bit knackered. When I arrive, I try to expose myself to the early morning light by going for a walk, which resets the clock. Then I make sure I stay awake until 9 or 10 o'clock at night.

I love breakfast buffets in hotels but are they full of germs and bacteria? What's the best way to approach them so I don't get ill?
I think broadly that if it's well cooked it's going to kill almost anything on it. You can obviously look to see the person who's dishing it out isn't coughing all over it. If you are in a posh enough hotel, where they cook an omelette in front of you, that's probably your best bet. Plus it's also very filling.

How do I stop getting a stomach bug in India?
Really difficult. Last time I was in India I didn't get one but three. I think the main thing is to avoid drinking any of the local water, even if you are going to a posh restaurant. I think you just have to be careful about what you eat and drink. There is some evidence about the benefits of taking a probiotic and I write about this in Clever Guts, my new book, because there is evidence probiotics will counter the risk of some of the foreign nasties you may pick up.

I never find time to go to the gym when travelling. How can I keep fit without going to the gym?
One of the things I do if I'm in a hotel and I'm staying on the 14th floor is run up and down the stairs, particularly in hotels in the States, but also to some extent Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately the stairs are quite difficult to get to and they are rarely carpeted, and sometimes they smell horrible but they are quite a good way to get exercise. The other thing you can do is aerobic strength exercises, things like squats and press ups, so I normally roll out of bed in the morning and I do five or six minutes of those, alternating my top half and my bottom half. You can get a surprising amount of benefit from doing something that takes you less than five minutes.

Other than the above, what are your top tips for staying well while travelling?
I think the main thing is to stay well hydrated, particularly on aeroplanes, where there is a risk of becoming dehydrated. I think it's really important that you get adequate sleep when you are travelling because there is a lot of excitement; there's a risk you will just get knackered and that will lower your defences, which will also make you more prone to picking up infections. The other way of staying well is basically to really enjoy yourself. There is a protective quality in just enjoying yourself and embracing the communities in which you move. Some people stay in hermetically sealed hotels when they travel but I think the best way of adapting is going out and mixing with the local population.


Michael Mosley trained in medicine but moved into television, presenting science and health-related shows including Should I Eat Meat?, The Truth About Personality, and Eat, Fast and Live Longer. He is also a best-selling author, with books including 5:2 Fast Diet, Fast Exercise, The 8-week blood sugar diet, and The Clever Guts Diet: How to revolutionise your body from the inside out. He is one of the hosts of Trust Me I'm A Doctor, returning to BBC Knowledge for a sixth season from Wednesday July 19, 7.30pm.