Important Travel Tips to Keep You Healthy
The following is a fairly comprehensive list of the general concerns for international travel. Not all of these concerns apply to every country; it is always important to learn what specific health and safety issues are prevalent in the country you will be visiting.
Before You Travel
Immunizations: Contact your doctor, clinic, or local or state health department regarding immunizations and malaria prophylaxis at least six to eight weeks before travel, earlier if possible.
Prescriptions: Obtain enough refills of prescriptions to last the entire trip. If you wear glasses or contacts, take a second pair and take your lens prescription with you.
Physician's Letter: If you take a narcotic or more than two medications, ask your physician for a letter that describes your medical condition and lists the generic name and dosage of each prescription. If you require routine injections, carry a physician's letter detailing your condition and the need to carry needles and syringes for medical purposes. Take written prescriptions with you.
Travel Insurance: Check your medical insurance to determine the extent of your coverage while abroad. If your insurance has territorial exclusions or if you are covered by Medicare, consider purchasing travel insurance that will pay for transportation to a U.S. hospital if you become seriously ill or injured. A travel agent should be able to help you with this.
While You Are Abroad
Medical Care Abroad: If you have no medical directory and you require medical attention, contact a major community hospital, medical school or the local American Consulate or Embassy.
Preventing Travelers' Diarrhea: In most developing countries you must be careful about what you eat and drink. Poor sanitation, lack of refrigeration and unchlorinated water can expose you to organisms that cause travelers' diarrhea and other problems. If you are affected, consume plenty of liquids to replace fluids and salts lost. Avoid solid foods and dairy products for 24 hours. Take Pepto-Bismol or Imodium to help reduce cramping and to control diarrhea when there are no bathrooms nearby, but follow label directions and do not take these medications for more than three to five days. Use Pepto-Bismol with caution if you are taking aspirin or are sensitive to aspirin.
Preventing STDs: Use latex condoms during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Purchase condoms and a spermicide or water-based lubricant before you leave the United States. Do not use intravenous drugs or share needles. Tattoos, acupuncture treatments and injections for medical or dental procedures may be risky because equipment may be contaminated. Avoid the use of locally produced immune globulin and blood-clotting factors in countries where the blood supply is not routinely tested for communicable diseases. If a blood transfusion is necessary, contact the nearest American Embassy or Consulate for advice.
Protection from Mosquitoes: The best protection against malaria is to avoid getting bitten. Mosquitoes are most active during dusk and dawn, on cloudy days and in shaded areas. Wear long-sleeved tops and long pants and use plenty of mosquito repellent containing at least 30 percent concentration of DEET. Sleep under mosquito netting if your lodging has unscreened windows or doors.
Protection from Other Insects: Always wear shoes to protect against hookworm, fungus, jigger flea and other infections. Shake out your shoes before putting them on to get rid of any insects.
Protection from Parasites: Avoid swimming or wading in fresh-water lakes and streams. They may be infested with a parasite that causes schistosomiasis, a disease that can damage your internal organs.
Pack a First Aid Kit
The following will help you prepare for incidents abroad:
- Insect repellent (30% DEET)
- Water disinfectant
- Moleskin for Blisters
- Pepto-Bismol or Imodium
- Ibuprofen or Tylenol
- Cold and cough remedies
- Mild laxative
- Sunscreen or sunblock
- Sunburn medication
- Anti-fungal and anti-itch agents
- Antibacterial cream or spray
- Bee sting kit (if allergic)