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TRAVEL HEALTH TIPS

Travelwise, plan ahead

Lower your risk

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 help 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
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Prevent Insect Bites

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Mosquitoes may transmit yellow fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and dengue fever, as well as other diseases35
  • Limit outdoor activity between dusk and dawn to reduce the risk of malaria and Japanese encephalitis. (Dengue fever, however, is transmitted by day-biting mosquitoes, primarily in urban areas.)35
  • Reapply insect repellent after swimming or excessive sweating35
  • Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves and pants whenever practical35
  • Sleep in well-screened areas35
  • Use bed nets permeated with a permethrin insecticide35
  • Use coils and insect sprays containing pyrethrum to kill insects in living areas
  • Get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever diseases if appropriate
  • Consult your travel physician regarding medication to prevent malaria, and to get other important information

HEALTH TIP

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.

Prevent Animal Bites and Scratches

ANIMALS

Animals are a source of infectious diseases, especially rabies.

Minimize the risk of rabies and toxic reactions to poisonous bites (snakes, scorpions, spiders, etc) by avoiding contact with local (wild and domestic) animals.3

HEALTH TIP

Be aware of your surroundings at all times and stay alert. Remember, not all animals behave ferociously—some become docile.4

Be Careful About Food and Water

FOOD

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.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Ensure all food is well cooked—especially meat and seafood
  • Serve food hot. Bacteria grow quickly as food cools.
  • Don’t eat leftovers, food from street vendors25, or unpasteurized dairy products38
  • Never eat raw shellfish38
  • Avoid cold cuts, salads, watermelon, and puddings25
  • Don’t eat canned food if the tin appears “blown” or “swollen”

EATING RAW FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

  • Eat only fruits and vegetables that you wash in purified water and peel yourself
  • Cook or bake fruit and vegetables that can’t be peeled or washed25

WATER

Up to 50% of travelers contract diarrhea while traveling.38 The most common cause of diarrhea is contaminated food and water.38

Several other illnesses are transmitted through contaminated water sources, such as typhoid fever24, hepatitis A39, polio, and cholera37. Even first-class hotels are no guarantee that water is pure.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Consume only canned or commercially bottled carbonated drinks
  • Avoid using ice cubes38
  • Filtration alone is not recommended40
  • Brushing teeth should also be done with purified water. If it’s not available, use bottled water.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PURIFY WATER?

Travelers should be advised of the following methods for treating water to make it safe for drinking and other purposes.

TREATMENT OF WATER

Boiling
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.

WHAT PREVENTIVE MEASURES ARE EFFECTIVE FOR TRAVELERS' DIARRHEA (TD)?

Travelers can minimize their risk for TD by practicing the following effective preventive measures:

  • Avoid eating foods or drinking beverages purchased from street vendors or other establishments where unhygienic conditions are present
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and seafood
  • Avoid eating raw fruits (for example, oranges, bananas, avocados) and vegetables unless the traveler peels them38

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

WHAT TREATMENT MEASURES ARE EFFECTIVE FOR TD?

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

Avoid Injuries

MAKE SURE TO GO OVER YOUR FIRST AID CHECKLIST

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
Absorbent cotton
Absorbent gauze
Tape―hypoallergenic, waterproof
Alcohol swabs
Antiseptic (also see skin care below)
Band-aids, butterfly closures, steri-strips
Burn ointment, dressings
Cotton swabs
Disinfectant
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
Blanket
Hot and cold packs
Tongue depressor
Flashlight
Latex gloves
Candles
Eye patch41

Be Prepared for Illness During and After Travel

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:

  • Have recently had any type of surgery, especially stomach, brain, eye, or orthopedic (bone and joint) surgery
  • Have had a recent heart attack or stroke
  • Are suffering from:
    • Chest pain
    • Any disease that you can easily spread to other people
    • Swelling of the brain caused by bleeding, injury, or infection
    • Severe sinus, ear, or nose infections
    • Severe chronic respiratory diseases, breathlessness at rest or a collapsed lung, sickle cell disease
    • Mental health issues except when fully controlled
  • Have a fever of 100°F (38°C) or greater AND 1 or more of the following:
    • Obvious signs of illness (for example, severe headache, weakness, skin, and eyes turning yellow)
    • Skin rash
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Persistent, severe cough
    • Confusion, especially if it has just started
    • Bruising or bleeding (without previous injury)
    • Diarrhea that does not go away
    • Vomiting that does not go away (other than motion sickness)

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Talk with your doctor before traveling.

Evaluate your health or the health of those traveling with you.

Blood Clots (Deep Vein Thrombosis)

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:

  • Have had DVT/PE in the past
  • Have had recent surgery
  • Are pregnant
  • Are a smoker
  • Are taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
  • Have cancer, restricted movement, or a blood-clotting problem

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

  • Talk to your doctor before traveling
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Walk and stretch your legs and arms at least once an hour. Your doctor may recommend that you wear special stockings that reduce leg swelling and encourage blood flow.

Counterfeit Drugs and Travel

WORLDWIDE SITUATION

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.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

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:

  • Keep a copy of your prescriptions, including the brand or generic name and manufacturer of any medicine that you take regularly or that have been prescribed for your trip
  • Buy medicines only from licensed pharmacies and get a receipt
  • Check with the pharmacist whether the drug has the same active ingredient as the one that you were taking
  • Make sure that the medicine is in its original packaging
  • Look closely at the packaging. Sometimes, poor-quality printing or otherwise strange-looking packaging will indicate a counterfeit product.
  • Look at news media and government websites for up-to-date information on reported or suspected drug counterfeiting

Individuals with Special Considerations for International Travel

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.

BABIES AND SMALL CHILDREN

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.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

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.

TRAVELERS WHO ARE PREGNANT

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).

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

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.

TRAVELERS WITH DISABILITIES

If you have a disability and are planning an international trip, you should take 3 extra steps to ensure a safe and accessible journey.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

  • Consult with your travel agent or tour operator and make sure that resources are available to meet your needs
  • See a travel medicine doctor, or a doctor familiar with travel medicine, at least 4–6 weeks before you leave. He or she will tell you which vaccines or medicines you will need and give you additional recommendations that fit your needs.
  • Research the resources available to people with disabilities in your destination

TRAVELERS WITH WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEMS

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.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

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.

Important Information For a Traveler’s Family and Friends

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.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Ask a family member, friend, or employer to be your contact person while you are traveling.

  • Make arrangements to check in at regular intervals during your trip with this contact person
  • Leave them a copy of your passport, as well as details of your travel plans and how to contact you
  • Leave them a copy of your prescription for any medicines that you are taking and the contact information for your doctor

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.

TRAVEL INFORMATION FORM

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.

Pay Attention to Your Health When You Come Home

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.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

You may wish to consult with an infectious disease doctor or travel medicine doctor.

IF YOU HAVE VISITED A MALARIA-RISK AREA:

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

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Diseases to Guard Against

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.

COMBINATION VACCINES

There are combination vaccines that help protect against multiple diseases that may reduce the number of shots you need.

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