Travelwise, plan ahead
Don’t let your trip be ruined by unexpected health problems. As soon as you make your travel plans, consult with your doctor as soon as possible. Some vaccination series may take weeks to complete. When you arrive at your destination(s), use common sense and always be aware of your surroundings. These tips can prevent the risk of disease and ensure your trip is a healthy one. Download and fill out the Travel Information Form to leave with family or friends while you’re away.
Travel Information Form
Signs and symptoms of malaria can still develop after you leave the endemic area. To be most effective, the prescribed medication must be continued exactly as prescribed.36 If symptoms develop. See your health-care provider immediately.
Animals are a source of infectious diseases, especially rabies.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times and stay alert. Remember, not all animals behave ferociously—some become docile.4
Poor sanitation, unhygienic food handling, and the heat and humidity of tropical climates contribute to the growth of bacteria that contaminate food. It's wise to ensure food has been properly prepared and cooked to avoid a wide variety of illnesses.
Travelers should be advised of the following methods for treating water to make it safe for drinking and other purposes.
Boiling is by far the most reliable method to make water of uncertain purity safe for drinking. Water should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil for 1 minute and allowed to cool to room temperature; ice should not be added. This procedure will kill bacterial and parasitic causes of diarrhea at all altitudes and viruses at low altitudes. To kill viruses at altitudes over 2000 m (6562 ft), water should be boiled for 3 minutes or chemical disinfection should be used after the water has boiled for 1 minute.40 Adding a pinch of salt to each quart or pouring the water several times from one clean container to another will improve the taste.
Travelers can minimize their risk for TD by practicing the following effective preventive measures:
If handled properly, well-cooked and packaged foods usually are safe. Tap water, ice, unpasteurized milk, and dairy products are associated with increased risk for TD. Safe beverages include bottled carbonated beverages, hot tea or coffee, beer, wine, and water boiled or appropriately treated with iodine or chlorine.38
TD usually is a self-limited disorder and often resolves without specific treatment; however, oral rehydration is often beneficial to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Clear liquids are routinely recommended for adults. Travelers who develop 3 or more loose stools in an 8-hour period─especially if associated with nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, or blood in stools─may benefit from antimicrobial therapy. Antibiotics usually are given for 3–5 days. Currently, fluoroquinolones are the drugs of choice. Talk to your health-care provider for further advice.38
Obviously everyone wants to avoid injury, particularly when traveling. But it’s also true that an injury or illness strikes when you least expect it. That’s why it’s important that you prepare yourself by taking a medical kit along. It’s also a good idea to include a first aid book.
This list is a suggestion only. Discuss the list with your health-care professional or pharmacist.
First Aid Items
Antiseptic (also see skin care below)
Band-aids, butterfly closures, steri-strips
Burn ointment, dressings
Insect sting emergency allergy kit (prescription may be required)
Moleskin for foot blisters
Safety pins, Swiss army knife (or scissors and tweezers)
Tensor bandage, triangular bandage, sling, and splint
Hot and cold packs
You should always know the signs and symptoms of illness. This is especially important when you’re traveling, so that you can take action quickly. When preparing for travel, you need to thoroughly examine your current condition, because there are times when staying home might be best for health reasons. Checkups are also a good precaution, and your doctor can help you decide whether to postpone your trip. In general, you should not travel by air if you:
Talk with your doctor before traveling.
Evaluate your health or the health of those traveling with you.
Airplane travel, especially flights longer than 8 hours, raise the risk for blood clots, also known as deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism (DVT/PE). You are at increased risk for DVT/PE if you:
Counterfeit (or fake) drugs are manufactured using incorrect, inactive, or harmful ingredients and packaged and labeled to look like real brand-name and generic drugs. Counterfeit drugs are extremely dangerous because they may contain too little or too much of the active ingredient, or toxic ingredients that are harmful to your health.
The quality and safety of drugs purchased in underdeveloped countries cannot be guaranteed. Make certain you take extra precautions in dealing with your medication while traveling.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends bringing all the drugs that you will need with you, rather than buying them while traveling. If you must buy drugs during your trip, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of buying drugs that are counterfeit:
Some people need to take extra care in preparing for travel. If you’re in one of these categories, make sure you consult your physician about your travel and about special needs. You should also be well informed about the services at your destinations.
Traveling with children will require extra thought and planning. Many travel-related vaccinations and preventive medicines that are used for adults are not recommended for young children.
Your child’s doctor can give you recommendations on which vaccines or medicines are safe for your child.
It is highly recommended that you bring your child's car seat with you, as the availability and quality of such seats abroad may be limited.
If you are pregnant, consult both your obstetrician and a travel medicine doctor before making any travel decisions. Depending on your stage of pregnancy, pre-existing medical conditions, and travel plans, you may want to even postpone your trip. In general, the safest time for a pregnant woman to travel is during the second trimester (18–24 weeks).
If you are in your third trimester, you should typically plan to stay within 300 miles of home to guarantee access to medical care if problems arise.
If you have a disability and are planning an international trip, you should take 3 extra steps to ensure a safe and accessible journey.
If your immune system is weakened from a disease such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), AIDS, certain cancers, or from chemotherapy or medicines, there may be added risks related to travel. Make sure you consult your doctor.
Even if you can travel, you may or may not be able to have certain vaccines or take medications that are normally recommended for your destination or they may not be as effective.
If you do get sick while traveling, your illness may be more severe or you may have added complications to your existing condition.
Make sure that you fully understand all the risks involved with your travel plans.
If your current medical status is unstable or puts your health at serious risk, it may be wise that you cancel your trip or postpone it until you can travel more safely.
In addition to preparing yourself for your trip, it’s also important to prepare your friends and family at home in case you have an emergency.
Ask a family member, friend, or employer to be your contact person while you are traveling.
If there is an emergency at home, or if a family member is worried about a traveler’s welfare, they can ask the US Embassy or consulate in the destination country for help.
When travelling out of the country, you should let family members and/or friends know where you will be in case an emergency arises. For your convenience, here is a form you can fill out and leave with them so they can get in touch with you quickly. To print out the form, click here.
If you are not feeling well, you should see a doctor and mention that you have recently traveled.
Malaria is a serious, even deadly, disease. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after your return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician your travel history.
You may wish to consult with an infectious disease doctor or travel medicine doctor.
It is very important that you continue taking your antimalarial drug exactly as prescribed.
For more information visit: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/stay-healthy.htm
When you’ve added your destinations, it is recommended that you take this list to your doctor so you can discuss relevant vaccinations before you travel.
Travel vaccines help protect you from illnesses present in other parts of the world, and help prevent the importation of infectious diseases across international borders. Which vaccinations you need depends on a number of factors, including your age, health status, and previous immunizations.
There are combination vaccines that protect against multiple diseases that may reduce the number of shots you need.