Healthy and safe traveling, whether to a far off place or just down the road, requires care and preparation. Because visiting a new location puts your body in contact with unfamiliar and different food, water, climate, and air quality, it’s not uncommon to become ill when traveling. 

Helpful things you can do to stay healthy on the road are to eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise without overdoing it. If you’re in a new and exciting place, you may have the urge to see everything you possibly can, but be careful not to overdo it or you may exhaust yourself to the point of illness. 

Always be prepared. Know the risks of transit routes and public transportation, and don’t take chances with respect to personal safety. Research where you’re going and pack wisely, with climate- and culture-appropriate clothing. Also, bring all the medication and first-aid gear you’ll need—you never know how far you may wind up from a pharmacy where someone is able to understand your needs.

Vaccines

Travelling abroad requires more preparation than does local travel. Plan ahead by researching if you’ll need immunizations, and schedule a time to get those completed at least six weeks before you depart. Vaccines you may need include:

  • Hepatitis A and/or B
  • Influenza
  • Measles-mumps-rubella
  • Meningcoccal meningitis
  • Pneumococcal
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria
  • Pertussis
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Yellow Fever

Before you travel, see your doctor or travel medicine professional to obtain a physical examination to make sure you’re in sufficiently good health to travel and sufficiently physically and emotionally fit for your intended activities.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

While travelling, make sure that you eat and drink carefully to avoid traveler’s diarrhea. Some tips include:

  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products
  • Avoid raw seafood
  • Avoid food sold by street vendors
  • Drink beverages only from commercially-sealed bottles or cans, or that you have personally disinfected by an approved method
  • Avoid ice
  • Hot, well-cooked food is safest

If you’re travelling to places where traveler’s diarrhea is common, you may want to carry medication (e.g., antibiotics and loperamide) to treat the condition.

Safety Concerns

If you’ll be traveling to a country where the risk for mosquito-borne diseases is high, you should bring insect repellents, mosquito nets, and other gear to protect yourself from being bitten. If any of the countries you’ll be visiting have endemic malaria, you should talk to your doctor about taking medication for prophylaxis.

Always be extra cautious while traveling, especially to new or unfamiliar places, and even more so if you don’t speak the local language. Avoid taking overcrowded transportation and be careful in crowded public spaces. Don’t wander or drive around late at night, especially when you are alone. Pay attention and adhere to travel advisories.

First Aid Kit

It’s a good idea to travel with a small personal first-aid kit. What goes in your kit depends on where you’re going, how long you’ll be there, and what you’ll be doing, but here are some basic guidelines of what to include:

  • Any prescription medications in their original or other well-marked and properly capped containers
  • Cough and cold medicine
  • Pain medication
  • Non-sedating antihistamines and/or decongestants
  • Sunscreen
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Antiseptic ointment
  • Small scissors and tweezers
  • Pocket knife
  • Thermometer
  • Medicine for diarrhea
  • Medicine for motion sickness
  • If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring spares and your prescription with you.

More Resources

Combating Foodborne Bacterial Diarrhea

Treating Traveler's Diarrhea

 

Dr. Paul Auerbach's Travel Stories

Searching for Great White Sharks

Haiti: Dispatches from the Ground

Haiti: January 28, 2010 - The Last Day

Hospitalito Atitlan 2008