Getting Your Body Ready for Missions
By Adam Swenson
“What do I need to do medically before I go?” As a missions consultant I get this question a lot. The truth is Belize is a very safe country to travel to: there are no rampant diseases you’ll come in contact with, and you’re far more likely to suffer a pulled muscle or dehydration than some more exotic ailment.
The good news here is that this puts your health on the trip largely back in your own hands. If you prepare your body well and go into your trip healthy, well-nourished, and well-rested the odds are great that you’ll stay that way throughout your time in Belize and your ministry and enjoyment of the trip will be greatly enhanced. Now with no further ado, here are my top tips to enjoy a healthy and safe trip to Belize.
Get Good Sleep
To stay in optimal health while traveling, we need to come into the trip healthy. Seems simple, but it’s amazing how people can overlook getting good sleep in the week before travel. Studies show that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are much more likely to get sick and that sickness is likely to last longer. Adults need seven to eight hours of good sleep to be in top shape, while teens need nine or ten hours of sleep.
Get Light Exercise
Your mission trip to Belize will be active. You’ll be running a VBS, playing soccer with some very fit Belizean kids (if you’re up for it), walking around the village, and/or working on a construction project. It’s best to prepare your body for this with some light exercise in the weeks before you go – that will get those muscles tuned up and limber so you can meet the day’s challenges, sleep hard, and be ready to go the following morning.
You don’t need to go crazy, just be active in the weeks before you go: hiking, biking, yoga, disc golf, or kettlebell workouts would all be good choices.
Eat Healthy Before You Go!
Along with good sleep and exercise, it’s a good idea to prioritize a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water before you go. Your body will feel great, your immune system will be strong, and you’ll be ready to be “all in” no matter what the activity is. Eating healthy is simple: emphasize vegetables, fruits, nuts, and good meats, and steer clear of processed foods as much as possible.
Medications and Immunization
Mostly when people ask us about what they need to do to prepare for the trip, they’re asking about any necessary prescriptions or vaccinations. Thirst Missions does not require any specific medications or vaccinations to attend our trips. Instead we ask that each participant visit their own doctor or travel nurse and decide in consultation with their medical professional what is needed for each individual’s situation. Please see your health professional for advice on your specific situation.
Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common travel-related ailment. It’s prudent to bring along an antibiotic and an over-the-counter antidiarrheal drug that can be started promptly if significant diarrhea occurs. Typical antibiotics that are prescribed would be either Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) 500 mg twice daily or Levofloxacin (Levaquin) 500 mg once daily for a total of three days. Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea are mild and do not require either antibiotics or antidiarrheal drugs. The best way to prevent traveler’s diarrhea is to drink plenty of water!
Malaria (Very Low Risk)
The drug of choice is Chloroquine, with a single 500 mg pill taken once a week starting a week or two before travel and continuing after the conclusion of the trip. The CDC says the malaria risk in Belize is very low and only recommends mosquito avoidance measures.
The immunizations recommended for travel in Belize are immunizations you likely already have including Hepatitis A, typhoid, and MMR.
Overall Belize is a very safe country to travel to: if you prepare your body ahead of time with adequate sleep, exercise, and good nutrition and hydration you’ll maximize your effectiveness in ministry and your enjoyment of your trip!
Adam Swenson is a missions consultant and trip leader with Thirst Missions. He prepares for his trips with kettlebells, walks on the treadmill before work, and extra rounds of disc golf.