Traveling abroad can create memories you keep for a lifetime. But with a world of hazards lying beyond your front door, from infectious disease and sunburns to motion sickness and contaminated food, it pays to take precautions. You want to remember your trip for the right reasons — not for the discomfort or illness you suffered along the way.
Check cdc.gov, news reports, and your destination’s local government websites several weeks before takeoff for travel advisories. Find out what diseases are endemic to the area, which vaccines and medications are recommended, and check in with your doctor. Some diseases, like malaria, may require prophylactic medication.
Assess what other risks you might encounter, including high altitude, motion sickness and extreme cold, wind or heat.
Pack a first-aid kit with any medications your doctor recommends. Research the activities you plan to do and be realistic about your fitness level.
Know your travel insurance benefits, especially if you have medical conditions. It’s a good idea to know what medical facilities are in the area and the kind of care they provide.
Ensure routine vaccinations, like Tdap and flu, are up to date. If they’re not, Lodhi says, “Most of them can be administered with specific destination-recommended vaccines.”
Seniors and children might need different vaccinations than adults. Allow a minimum of two weeks for vaccines to assume efficacy. Keep a record of your vaccines, and store it with your passport and other essential travel documents.
Prepare for long flights by packing medications in your carry-on and wearing loose clothes. Remember compression stockings, which minimize leg swelling and reduce the risk of a blood clot. Stay hydrated and minimize alcohol intake.
Reduce jet lag by lowering window shades on red-eye flights and set your watch for the time at your destination.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer.
Use caution when eating street food. Your gut bacteria won’t be accustomed to the microbes you’ll encounter far from home. In developing countries, stick to bottled water and order drinks with no ice.
Don’t forget insect repellent, sunscreen and clothes that provide coverage from the sun.
This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.