Traveling? Seven Steps to Healthy Trips Abroad

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Whether traveling for business or pleasure, taking proactive steps will help you avoid serious potential health risks and keep you healthy both during and after your travels. 

Obtain Country Specific Health Updates in Advance 

Four to six weeks before departure, check www.cdc.gov/travel for country-specific information. Sign up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (www.state.gov/travel) and receive regular updates on your travel locations.  Consult with a Travel Health Clinic (www.istm.org); they can provide more customized care and information. 

Pack a Travel Health Kit  

Foreign countries do not have the same medications or supplies that are available in the US. It is practical to assume that nothing is available. Use a shoebox/plastic bag to pack first aid supplies and OTC medications that may be needed (for sample list, visit www.tristatepreventivehealth.com/travelhealthkits.html). Always include a thermometer, as a fever requires immediate medical attention. Prescription medication should remain in original pharmacy bottles and be kept with carryon luggage in case checked bags are lost. Pack extra doses of all medications in case of a delayed return home.  

Know the Health Risks/Requirements of the Country

Vaccines, such as for Yellow Fever, may be mandated to enter certain countries while other vaccines are optional. Keep in mind, travel vaccines need to be given at least two weeks before travel to be protective. Other diseases can be prevented with medications. 

Avoid Illnesses Spread by Food/Water  

Avoid street vendors and make sure food is cooked thoroughly.  Eat only fruits that need peeling. Drink bottled water. Beware of ice, lettuce, or “washed” foods.  If in a remote area, boil water or bring filter bottles made specifically for adventure travel. 

Avoid Diseases Spread by Insects/Mosquitos

Pack mosquito repellant containing DEET (30% or greater) and/or treat clothes with Permethrin. To prevent malaria, prescription medication needs to be started days before leaving home. 

Have the Correct Travel Insurance  

Cost coverage travel insurance is common but choose a plan that offers 24/7 medical consultation and guidance during a medical or security situation, as well as one that covers evacuation and more personalized assistance.  

Plan to See Your Doctor during the 6 Months after Your Return 

Some diseases acquired abroad may not become apparent for months. If you should experience a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash within 6 months of your return, see your doctor immediately and inform him/her of your recent travels.