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The best way to stay healthy on your trip is to plan before you go. If you are planning to travel to another country, see a doctor several months before you leave so you will have time for vaccines (immunizations) that you may need to get ahead of time.
Also ask your doctor if there are medicines or extra safety steps that you should take. For example, if you have asthma, you may have to avoid stays in polluted cities. Or someone visiting the tropics may need to take medicine to prevent malaria.
Before you go, learn about the places you plan to visit. For example, find out if the water is safe to drink or if you need to worry about malaria.
Basic safety can prevent some problems:
If you become seriously ill while traveling, your country's embassy or consulate can help you find medical care. For a complete list of embassies and consulates, see the U.S. Department of State website at www.usembassy.gov. You can also get the contacts for local doctors and medical clinics. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling, seek medical attention immediately.
If you were healthy during your trip and you feel well when you return home, you probably don't need to see a doctor.
See your doctor when you get home if either of the following occurs:
Tell your doctor the places you visited and whether you think you may have gotten a disease. Many diseases don't show up right away. And some can take weeks or months to develop.
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Proper planning is the best way to stay healthy during your trip. This takes time. You'll want to gather both travel and health information, and think about your special needs.
This will help make sure you have time to get vaccines or make other health preparations.
Most travel, even if you are going on a guided tour, typically demands more physical effort than is required at home. Boost your fitness by starting an exercise program, such as fitness walking, in advance.
Include items such as pain relievers, sunscreen, insect repellent, moleskin, antifungal and antibacterial ointments, medicine for motion sickness, and antidiarrheal medicines.
If your insurance company doesn't cover you in other countries, you may want to think about buying travel health insurance. Use the Internet to search for "travel insurance compare" to get websites that help you compare types of travel insurance.
Depending on where you're visiting and how long you'll be there, you may need vaccines to protect against childhood infections, tetanus, or other diseases. Check with the nearest travel health clinic, your regional health department, your doctor, or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov/travel) to see which vaccines you need.
If you have any chronic diseases or other health concerns, such as birth control or allergies, see your doctor. You may need to take other steps or make adjustments in your travel plans.
Your name must match the name on the bottle. Pack them in a waterproof container in your carry-on luggage. Take extra amounts of your routine medicines packed in checked luggage in case of theft or loss.
This will help with a comparison in case you have chest pain or other symptoms.
For example, wear a medical identification tag and take extra medicine with you.
If you decide to travel, take some general precautions while traveling, such as notifying the airline of your condition before you fly. Consider wearing compression stockings and taking a few walks while on a long flight to increase the blood circulation in your legs. (Taking walks is good advice for all travelers.)
Flying isn't always fun. But you can take steps to make it easier and to feel better during and after your flight.
Examples include gels, liquids, sharp scissors, or pocket knives. See the Transportation Security Administration website at www.tsa.gov/travel for an updated list of what isn't allowed in carry-on luggage.
These are easy to remove when you go through security at the airport. They will also be more comfortable if your feet swell on the plane.
Sitting still slows down the blood flow in your legs and raises your blood clot risk. Consider wearing compression stockings.
Examples include drinking plenty of liquids and changing your sleep schedule to the new time zone.
If you have a fear of flying, talk to your doctor. The doctor may recommend medicines; hypnosis; or breathing, visualization, and relaxation exercises to help you feel less afraid.
Contaminated water and food are the most common cause of illness in travelers.
Canned or bottled carbonated beverages (including bottled water and soft drinks), beer, and wine are also usually safe.
It may be contaminated.
Taking the above precautions with food can help prevent infections, like tapeworm.
Travelers to backcountry areas of North America should also take precautions with water. Even though the water in high mountain lakes looks sparkling clear, it may be contaminated with Giardia intestinalis, the parasite that causes giardiasis. Take simple precautions to avoid this illness, such as boiling the water.
Swimming in contaminated fresh water, such as ponds or rivers, can expose you to diseases. Even swimming pools with inadequate chlorination pose a risk. Talk to your doctor if you plan on doing recreational water sports—such as white-water rafting, adventure racing, or kayaking—in tropical and backcountry regions.
To prevent fungal or parasitic infections and injuries, do not go barefoot. Try to keep your feet as clean and dry as possible.
Although sea water is usually safe from disease, swimming or diving in sea water can still be dangerous. Avoid swimming or wading in sea water near a river, estuary, or other outlet from inland. Swimming when you have an open cut or sore can also increase your risk of getting an infection. In developing countries, sea water around big cities and other populated areas may not be safe.
Mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and ticks all spread disease such as malaria, Lyme disease, and West Nile fever.
Malaria is the insect-borne disease of most concern to travelers in tropical and subtropical regions. Although antimalarial medicines kill the malaria parasite in the bloodstream, this protection isn't complete. Take protective measures along with taking antimalarial medicine.
Ticks inhabit many regions, including Europe, Canada, and the United States. Although it is rare for travelers to contract diseases from ticks, some of the diseases are serious.
Here are some tips that can help you avoid mosquitoes and other insects.
Permethrin or deltamethrin insecticide sprayed on bed nets will protect against mosquitoes for weeks to months.
The smoke from these slow-burning coils repels mosquitoes.
This is especially important from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes that spread malaria and other diseases bite. Insect repellent applied to clothing is effective for longer than it may be on the skin.
They do not prevent bites.
Many travelers underestimate the sun's strength and overestimate the amount of protection their sunscreen offers. This may cause an uncomfortable sunburn and other skin damage.
Although disease is a big risk while you are traveling, you should also be aware of the risk of injury and other concerns.
They are a leading cause of injury among travelers. Bad roads, poor driver training, and crowded roadways can make driving dangerous in other countries.
Take care around dogs and other animals. Dogs in developing countries may bite, and rabies is a concern. If you are bitten by an animal, wash the bite with clean water and seek medical attention immediately.
Most wounds sustained in developing countries carry a higher risk of becoming infected.
But if you don't get a tetanus shot before you leave, you should get one after an animal bite or an injury that results in a break in the skin.
The motion of cars, planes, trains, boats, or ships can make some people sick.
Air pollution can pose a serious threat to those with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
Sexual activity can lead to sexually transmitted infections.
Altitude sickness occurs when you cannot get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes.
It happens most often when people who are not used to high altitudes go quickly from lower altitudes to 8,000 ft or higher. When you go too high too fast, your body cannot adjust.
Altitude sickness can range from mild to life-threatening. With good planning, such as ascending slowly or taking certain medicines, it is often preventable.
You will learn about safety in your scuba diving certification class. If you plan to get certified while traveling, find an experienced, certified teacher that you feel comfortable with. Several groups, including the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), certify instructors and dive shops all over the world.
If you are a new diver, it is best to go with an experienced guide, also called a dive master. Most accidents and problems occur when divers ignore the rules and push their limits. Here are some general diving rules.
Don't hold your breath.
Traveler's diarrhea is loose, watery bowel movements you can get when you travel. It also can cause vomiting and belly cramps.
This kind of diarrhea is usually caused by bacteria. But sometimes it is caused by a parasite or virus.
Most people get it when they eat undercooked, raw, or contaminated foods. You can also get it if you drink contaminated water or if you drink something that has contaminated ice cubes in it.
In some cases, new foods can cause diarrhea. In other cases, the stress and anxiety of travel can cause it.
Traveler's diarrhea usually isn't serious. Most of the time, bowel movements return to normal quickly. The most important thing is to prevent dehydration. Make sure to drink a lot of fluids.
If you have been healthy during your trip and feel well when you return home, you don't need to see a doctor. But if you've been ill, especially while traveling to regions where disease is prevalent, you need to see a doctor.
Many diseases don't show up right away. Some take weeks to months to develop.
Tell your doctor the regions you visited and about any exposure to disease.
It's important to be aware of other symptoms besides a fever. See your doctor if you have:
Current as of:
March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Clinical Review Board:
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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