Travel smart: 5 steps to protect your travel health
Step 1: Learn about your destination. You want to know what food and water quality is like, what medical services are available, what type of accommodations there are, and what, if any other risks exist you need to be aware of (frequent crime, terrorism risk, diseases, etc.). A great place to start is the CDC website and its destinations advice page. There you will be able to choose the country or countries you are planning to visit and view up-to-date information on what vaccinations are recommended and which diseases are most risky there.
Step 2: Visit a travel health clinic or your doctor. Based on the CDC advice you find, and advice from your doctor or the doctors at a travel health clinic, you may need to get appropriate vaccinations or immunizations. Be sure to obtain a “Certificate of Vaccination” or “Yellow Card” that you will carry with your passport. Many countries will not let you enter without proof of vaccinations.
Realize that some vaccinations require a full eight weeks (or more) to complete a series before you are fully protected so be sure to allow plenty of time before your departure. No matter where you are traveling, every adult should have tetanus and diphtheria immunizations every 10 years. Additional immunizations may also be required or just advisable, depending on the country or countries you are visiting or your “style” of travel [such as hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies, polio, influenza (flu), meningococcal, yellow fever, cholera, and Japanese encephalitis.]. Check with your doctor or travel clinic.
Step 3: Know how diseases are transmitted. Food and water, insects, other people, or contaminated surfaces may pose a potential health risk to the unwary.
When traveling, it is essential to heighten your awareness about what you eat, drink and touch to ensure travel health.
- Contaminated food and water are the most common ways a traveler gets sick. Severe diarrhea and vomiting (Montezuma’s revenge) may sideline your traveling activity for a few days, but if you contract typhoid fever or hepatitis A (both transmitted by contaminated food or water) things get a bit more serious.
- Watch what you touch. The common cold, flu, measles, mumps, diphtheria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, AIDS, hepatitis B, Ebola, can all be transmitted person-to person.
- Insects such as mosquitoes and ticks can be a serious threat to your health. The mosquito transmits malaria, Zika, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and typhus, to name but a few.
Step 4: Be sure you are protected with appropriate travel insurance that includes strong health and evacuation coverage. We cannot stress this one enough. Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance covers our team but there are many others that are very good. Learn more about travel insurance, its benefits, its limitations, and the importance of good evacuation coverage by starting with our page, Travel Insurance 101.
Step 5: Remain vigilant and take the needed steps to always protect yourself.
We have a series of articles on travel health, below, that will provide you with detailed advice. Refer to them to help you stay healthy during your journey. In the meantime, here are a few short tips to help you on your way:
- Sun – Wear sun-protective clothing with long sleeves and long pants. Wear a hat. Wear sunglasses. Wear sunscreen on any exposed skin and be sure to apply it 20 minutes before you go outside. Always reapply your sunscreen after swimming or exercise or approximately every two hours. Check with your doctor to understand if any medications you are taking may put you more at risk for sun exposure. Understand that even if it is cloudy, you can still get sunburn.
- Heat – Drink plenty of fluids – beer and other alcoholic beverages do not qualify as rehydrating. Stick to water. Talk to your doctor about the need to add electrolytes or salt to your diet, if any. Wear loose clothing and light colors that help protect from the sun and heat.
- Altitude – Acclimatize! Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol and taking sedatives. Take it slowly.
- Jet Lag – See our article on preventing jet lag.
- Motion Sickness – See our article on dealing with motion sickness.
- Local Foods – We all want to sample the local cuisine, right? But unless you know where the food came from and how it was prepared, be very cautious. Err on the side of being safe. You may want to read this article How to avoid getting traveler’s diarrhea or food poisoning
- Water – Unless you know the water is pure, drink only canned or commercially bottled water (from a bottle you open) or carry a portable water filter. If you are in a country where water quality is suspect, do not allow restaurants to add ice cubes to your glass. Only brush your teeth with bottled water.
- Driving – The World Health Organization reports that the leading cause of death and disability in the world among travelers come from injuries, not illness. Perhaps no surprise is that motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of healthy U.S. citizens living, working or traveling overseas. If you are injured in a car accident, you are more at risk for contracting a more serious illness through blood transfusions and injections. To minimize your risk, always wear seat belts and refuse to ride in vehicles that don’t have working ones. Always wear a helmet on a motorcycle or bicycle. Avoid overcrowded public transport if possible. Avoid traveling on unfamiliar roads after dark.
- Wash your hands! — In terms of preventing the spread of viruses and becoming sick yourself, this is essential, basic advice. You may want to read Fear of COVID-19 – traveling in the age of coronavirus and Five tips to guide your travel plans in the time of coronavirus.
Save This Post For Later
Read more travel health tips here:
Reading Time: 6 minutes After the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing how to travel safely is more important than ever. Learn more about 5 essential things to pack to travel safely so you can protect yourself from getting sick during flights, hotels and visits to tourist sights.
Reading Time: 4 minutes The social sphere is all abuzz with questions from travelers and what to do about travel plans in the time of coronavirus. The biggest concern seems to be getting stuck or quarantined somewhere and not being able to get home. Read our five travel tips to guide your travel plans in the time of coronavirus.
Reading Time: 5 minutes Traveler’s diarrhea, a.k.a. Montezuma’s revenge, Delhi belly, Aztec two-step, tourista, the runs, or whatever popular name you wish to call it, is not only inconvenient and unpleasant, it can become a serious health risk. Here is how to avoid getting traveler’s diarrhea or food poisoning.
Reading Time: 4 minutes Do you have a travel sleep kit? Time zone changes, a different bed and pillow, and more can play havoc with a traveler’s attempts to sleep. Which is why anyone who travels should pack sleep travel kit to ensure sleep is as blissful as possible.
Reading Time: 4 minutes Every spring as the summer sun gets higher in the skies, the questions come up again about sunscreen safety, and the question is asked again, which is the best sunscreen for travel?
Reading Time: 6 minutes Fighting germs when you are traveling is an ongoing battle. Who wants to get sick and have to stay in a hotel room, or worse, end up in a hospital when traveling? That makes fighting germs (like the new coronavirus) No. 1 on your to-do list when traveling since you can’t avoid public places! Here are our top travel hacks for fighing germs in planes, trains, public bathrooms, hotel rooms, and more.
Reading Time: 5 minutes When you travel to remote destinations, you have to be vigilant to stay safe and healthy. Those who travel smart and hope to stay healthy and safe will follow these traveling tips from Jeff Blumenfeld.
Reading Time: 3 minutes Air travel these days means being elbow-to-elbow with strangers, hundreds jammed into a chamber for hours on end, touching all the same surfaces. All that makes staying healthy after air travel so much more difficult. We know how to stay healthy though, and we’ll show you.
Reading Time: 11 minutes Whether you’re currently in a relationship or you plan to enter one soon, traveling together with your partner can be one of the best ways to determine if you are, indeed, compatible as long-term partners. Traveling together can uncover any one of the 10 reasons why relationships fail.
Reading Time: 5 minutes When traveling, the last thing you want is a pounding migraine headache. But like it or not migraines and travel go together for a lot of reasons, including the emotional and physical stress of travel, dehydration, and lack of sleep. We have migraine traveling tips to help you be aware, be cautious, and be prepared.
Reading Time: 4 minutes If there is one thing I am keen on when traveling, it is a getting a good night’s sleep in a hotel. Over the years I’ve figured out a few traveling tips for sleeping better in hotels, like when making a hotel reservation, ask for what you want.
Reading Time: 6 minutes No matter if you are traveling for business, to visit friends or family, or on a dream holiday, travel stress can take a physical and mental toll. Here are the tips we use to relieve travel stress whenever we are flying.
Reading Time: < 1 minute Trying to stay fit and healthy during travel can be a challenge. We make it easier with a nifty infographic that will help guide your health and fitness planning anywhere you travel.
Reading Time: 6 minutes Jet lag is nearly inevitable, really, when you travel at today’s pace across multiple time zones. Man was meant to saunter thousands of miles, not jet between continents to suddenly find himself propelled into tomorrow or reliving this morning. Avoiding jet lag is really all about minimizing jet lag’s effects. That is indeed possible, but some of what you need to do may seem counter-intuitive.
Reading Time: 7 minutes If you travel smart it is wise to know how to avoid bed bugs when traveling. This article provides the best and most practical traveling advice for avoiding bed bugs and also knowing what to do to get rid of bed bugs if they hitch a ride in your luggage back home.
Reading Time: 3 minutes Planning on traveling to Brazil, Latin America or the Caribbean? Then you would be wise to know how to protect yourself from Zika. And that means protecting yourself from mosquito bites that spread it. What are the best ways to protect yourself from Zika? We show you how.
Reading Time: 2 minutes Anyone can get travel sick, even if you “never” do. The good news is there is a tried-and-true playbook for travel sickness prevention. The bad news is there is no cure for travel sickness. Also known as motion sickness, car sickness, sea sickness, and air sickness, the malady can come on quickly.
Reading Time: 4 minutes Repel insects like mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and chiggers and keep them from biting without dousing your skin with chemicals. How? With insect repellent clothing infused with permethrin.
So you’ve booked your ticket, chosen a seat, and you’re packing your luggage, including your carry-on bag. But will you be flying in comfort? You DO want to have a comfortable flight, and you hope you won’t have a neighbor from...
Reading Time: 3 minutes Ebola, measles, flu, blood clots and more seem to lurk everywhere. Read the news and you begin to imagine a thousand ways to get sick when sealed in a flying aluminum tube with 300 of your new best friends. Really, though, there is no need for fear and hysteria. Here are nine tips from HI Travel Tales to help you stay healthy when flying and help you arrive for your holiday or business as rested as possible.