How to stay healthy on your summer cruise

Vaccines, good hand hygiene important on board and at port

Wake from boat in harbor

If you’re one of the millions of people planning a cruise trip this year, you’ll need more than your suitcase. It’s just as important to make sure your vaccinations are up to date even if you don’t plan to leave the ship.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, respiratory illnesses, including the flu, and gastrointestinal illnesses are the root of most cruise ship outbreaks. Officials say anyone planning to take a cruise should visit a health care provider before leaving port to find out what vaccines are right for them.

The hepatitis A vaccine is important for cruise travelers, especially if you plan to eat in one of the cities you visit during your cruise, according to Danielle Fryer, RN with ADC’s Travel Clinic. And it’s never too late to get vaccinated.

“Optimally, we like to give that [vaccine] two to four weeks beforehand, but there are benefits to receive it even the morning you jump on ship,” Fryer said.

After vaccines, your next line of defense against disease is as simple as washing your hands.

“Cruises are notorious for norovirus. [The] best way to prevent that is good hand hygenie,” said Fryer.

Fryer says alcohol-based sanitizers are OK to use in a pinch, but soap and water are the most effective at killing germs.

How to wash your hands

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and use soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub all over, including the backs of your hands, between fingers, and under nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You can also sing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel.

Information from CDC