Staying Healthy While You Travel
Preventing illness or injury is a big part of making your trip relaxing and enjoyable. It is important to take certain precautions. Some destinations have environments that may be very different from the area you live in. Also, travel to developing countries poses certain extra risks.
“Seeing a travel medicine specialist before such trips will greatly help to minimize the risk of illness and injury during your travels, which allows the traveler more time to enjoy a dream vacation,” says Mark Knouse, MD, Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “Successful preparation before travel will also minimize the risk of introducing new infections back into the local population where you live.”
Healthy preparations before you travel
If you are planning to travel outside the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you:
- Prepare a complete travel itinerary. List each destination, length of stay, and types of activities planned.
- Contact your travel agent to obtain local health information. This should include food and beverage precautions, information regarding insects and other pests, and the availability of emergency medical care.
- Check with your insurance company to determine what coverage your policy provides for travel abroad.
- Consider the potential benefits of travel insurance and medical evacuation insurance.
- Contact your healthcare provider for an up-to-date immunization record. Make an appointment to receive necessary vaccines at least 4 to 6 weeks before you plan to leave.
- Obtain specific information on preventive health recommendations based on your itinerary by contacting the CDC's Travel Information website.
- Identify contact information for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country or countries you will be visiting for assistance in case of a medical emergency.
Be sure to also get prescription medicines refilled to last the entire trip. Take extra prescriptions for medicines and/or eyewear, in case it is necessary to have them filled while abroad. Wear a medical information bracelet, if necessary. Also, take along a first aid kit for minor emergencies that may arise.
Healthy reminders for while you are traveling
Eat carefully if traveling to a country with an increased risk of traveler's diarrhea. According to the CDC, travelers' diarrhea is the most predictable travel-related illness. Here are some tips to try to avoid diarrhea:
- Eat foods that are steaming hot and well-cooked. These are usually the safest.
- Avoid eating foods from street vendors, no matter how appetizing they look.
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and raw or uncooked seafood.
- Peel fruits yourself.
- Drink commercially bottled water or carbonated beverages.
- Avoid ice.
- Use bottled water when brushing your teeth.
If you are traveling to a country with an increased risk of malaria, get a prescription for preventive medicine for this disease from your travel medicine provider. The medicine needs to be taken before you go on your trip, during your travels, and for a certain number of days after you return, depending on the type of medicine prescribed.
Avoid swimming and any water activities in freshwater lakes and streams as you may be exposed to certain diseases. If you are traveling to a country with an increased risk of disease transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria or yellow fever, be sure to protect yourself with insect repellents, special clothing, and bed nets.