Traveling can be a stressful endeavor. Last minute details, delayed flights or difficult family members can all contribute travel choas, whether its for vacation or business. But one part of the trip that doesn’t need to be stressful is protecting your health.
Preparing for your trip
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tips for packing your travel health kit so that you can be prepared for potential illness or injury. Are you traveling with young children, a pregnant woman, or someone with a chronic illness? Be sure to pack special prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you may not be able to obtain while traveling. Make sure all travelers in your group have up-to-date vaccinations and check to see if there are any special immunizations recommended for the area you’ll be visiting.
Brian Kaminski, DO, medical director of the Emergency Department at ProMedica Toledo Hospital notes that some countries require proof of immunization against certain illnesses (yellow fever, for example) when traveling from prevalent regions. “Some vaccinations must be given in a series, so it may take a several months to become appropriately immunized prior to traveling out of the country,” he adds.
Also, learn about your destination before you depart and be aware of the potential health risks, especially if you’ll be travelling internationally. The CDC frequently advises travelers of outbreaks around the globe. The agency issues three different types of notices, including:
- Watch: A reminder to follow usual precautions for the destination and represents baseline risk or slightly above baseline risk to travelers.
- Alert: Advises travelers to follow enhanced precautions for the destination due to increased risk in defined settings or associated with specific risk factors.
- Warning: Encourages travelers to avoid all non-essential travel to the destination due to high risk.
The CDC posts current travel health notices on its website, accounting not only for viral outbreaks, but also health ramifications from natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.
Enjoy your trip, uninterrupted
No one wants their vacation ruined by serious sunburn, itchy mosquito bites or tummy troubles. Paying extra attention to your health during your trip can reduce your chances of falling ill. Be sure to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of clean, safe water to prevent sunburn and dehydration. Use insect repellent to prevent mosquito and other bug bites. If you’re unfamiliar with the area where you’re travelling, food and water safety are important considerations.
“The CDC’s Traveler Information Center provides helpful guidelines on safe foods and beverages to consume and how to handle bathing and swimming in water,” says Dr. Kaminski.
Finally, wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs, and avoid close contact with fellow travelers who may be sick.
There’s no place like home
When you return home, continue to monitor your health. Depending on their point of origin, international travelers may be screened for certain illnesses upon re-entering the United States. Viruses like Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Lassa Fever have become more prevalent in certain areas of the globe, but international visitors aren’t the only travelers at risk for illness. Even popular U.S. tourist destinations have been a source of Measles, Tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. If you feel unwell or experience a fever or other symptoms following your trip, see your doctor and be sure to tell them about your recent travel.
How do you plan for a safe and enjoyable vacation? Share your tips below in the comments.