Nine Smart Travel Health Tips

By Michael Galvan | 03/08/2016

Traveling abroad is one of the most exciting things you can do.  It allows you to see new places, experience diverse cultures, and learn more about yourself in the process. Before you jet off though, there are some things to consider.

Whenever you visit a foreign country there is always the possibility of getting sick. Visiting a new place may expose you to viruses, bacteria, and germs that you would not normally encounter. Being in a new area may also mean that you may have trouble accessing your usual medication or treatment options. To make sure that your trip stays fun, follow these key travel health tips before you go.

1. Plan ahead when it comes to prescriptions.

If you are on prescription medication bring extra in case you encounter a delay. Things don’t always go as planned and it could be challenging to refill a necessary medication when far from home. It is also a good idea to bring a copy of the doctor’s recommendation and prescription to help you get through customs.

2. Bring over-the-counter medications recommended by travel health physicians.

These preventive measures can help your body fight small or common illnesses abroad.

3. Know what vaccines or other medications (like antibiotics) are required and recommended before you leave.

Many countries have public health measures in place to protect their population. These measures usually include mandatory vaccines. Look at what countries you will be visiting and what their required vaccines are. Don’t forget to bring proof of your immunization.

There are also recommended vaccines. These vaccines may not be required by foreign governments but are recommended by health experts to help prevent travelers from acquiring certain local diseases or sicknesses. Getting these additional vaccines could help protect you from spending your trip in a hotel room or worse, hospital. Many healthcare providers will have a list of recommended vaccines for you to choose from.

4. Figure out where your embassy is ahead of time and register.

If you do get sick abroad, the United States embassy can help you find medical care and notify your next of kin in an emergency.

5. Consider bringing a medical bracelet or medical card.

When traveling with serious and/or chronic conditions consider bringing medical identification written in more than one language. This could be helpful if an incident occurs and you need immediate care. Diabetics, asthmatics, and people with severe allergies are all good candidates for a medical bracelet or card.

6. Contact the airline you are traveling with.

Before you hop on the plane, call your airline. Ask about their policies regarding medicine, disability, and pregnancy. See if there is anything you will need to bring to verify your medical needs.

7. Understand the best ways to stay food safe.

One of the best parts of traveling is enjoying the cuisine. That said, unfamiliar food may also present certain risks. To avoid food-borne illness, follow a few simple rules.

  • Try and stick with hot food. High heat can kill germs that cause vomiting and diarrhea. But, beware that cooked food that allowed to sit at room temperature may become contaminated.
  • Use bottled or canned beverages. Drinks that come sealed from the factory are generally safe and free of bacteria. Drinking local tap water or liquids from unsealed bottles could make you really sick.
  • Avoid ice. Ice is generally made from local tap water and may be contaminated.
  • Avoid raw food. Raw meat, vegetables, and fruit may contain germs that won’t be killed through cooking or sanitation.

8. Bring sexual protection.

If you have a sexual encounter abroad, you want to have protection from STI’s on hand. Condoms might help to lower your risk for catching diseases like hepatitis, gonorrhea, syphilis, HPV, and chlamydia.

9. Visit a clinician or clinic with travel health expertise  to get the most up-to-date information from the World Health Organization and what that means for your trip.

Talk to a travel health specialist and learn if there are any certain diseases or conditions to be worried about during the time you are traveling. This expert will also be able to give you useful advice on precautions and planning for your trip.

Taking a trip is an exciting experience that you should enjoy. Plan ahead, stay safe, and have a great time!