Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Tips from the International Society of Travel Medicine

The International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) is the premier medical organization devoted to travel medicine. The organization wisely recognizes that it has an educational responsibility to laypersons at least as large as its mission for health care professionals. ISTM publishes two sets of tips (annotated by me) that are worthy of mention:

Tips for Healthy Travel

Before the Trip:

1. Seek consultation with a travel medicine specialist (or other travel-savvy health care provider) at least one month prior to travel.
2. Ask about special vaccines that are recommended for specific destinations. Be familiar with current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.
3. Carry a first aid kit containing regular and special medication for the trip, and keep it in your hand luggage. Carry prescriptions for replacement medications, should these become necessary.
4. Procure evacuation and travel insurance to cover health emergencies while abroad.

During the Trip:

1. Take precautions against malaria when visiting areas at risk. Prevent mosquito bites using insect repellents, bed nets, proper clothing, etc. Take anti-malarial medications as advised.
2. Road safety is essential. Always wear your safety belt when in a car, a helmet when on a bicycle, motorcycle, or moped, and avoid driving at night or on dangerous narrow roads.
3. Abstain from casual sex or practice safe sex with condoms to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
4. Verify and consume safe water and food. Drink properly disinfected water. Carry medications to self-treat diarrhea and know how to use them.
5. Minimize excessive sun exposure and wear an effective sunscreen.
6. Do not handle or provoke animals, both domestic and wild. Animal bites, licks, or scratches can transmit rabies virus. Seek immediate care if bitten.

After the Trip:

1. If you develop fever during or after a trip, seek competent medical help.
2. Be certain to continue anti-malaria medications after your trip if advised by the prescribing physician.

The Responsible Traveler

1. Be informed. Study the history, geography, and people (culture) of other societies before you embark on your journey.
2. Be open-minded an patient. Understand that other cultures do not necessarily beat to the cadence or rhythm of your personal native country.
3. Be respectful. Show all people gratitude and respect. Adhere to local customs in your dress, speech, greetings, behavior in sacred or religious locations, and in displays of affection.
4. Avoid exploitation. Promote the local economy. Avoid condoning or contributing to local exploitation (low salaries, overwork, child abuse, sex) of indigenous peoples.
5. Protect the environment. Conserve food and water, and do not litter or damage sites. Do not remove natural objects for the purpose of any personal collection. If you pack it in, pack it out.
6. Leave a good impression. The experiences of those who follow you will in large part be determined by your behavior.

photo by Brenda Tiernan

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.