Preventative Health Measures for International Travel

There’s a thin line between a dream vacation and a trip right out of your nightmares. Getting sick abroad can do more than just ruin your vacay; it can also have long-lasting or life-threatening effects. The more you plan ahead for preventative health measures for your international travel, the healthier you’ll stay while you’re away. You want to return home with souvenirs, photos, and memories — nothing more.

Start planning as early as possible

If you’ll be traveling internationally, you might need to get vaccinations as early as six weeks in advance. If you wait too long, you may have to cancel your trip or be vulnerable to disease while traveling. Visit your doctor two months in advance to find out what preventative health measures for International travel you need and the vaccination schedule you should follow. Here are a few more to-dos to add to your list:

  • If you suffer from allergies, find out if there are any allergens you should worry about at your destination. For example, if you have a cat or dog allergy, you don’t want to book a hotel that’s pet-friendly. Allergies can be especially troublesome for contact wearers. Familiarize yourself with best practices such as keeping windows shut; thoroughly cleaning your contacts; and keeping your hands away from your eyes.
  • If you’re going to need prescriptions refilled prior to your trip, see if you can order them now.
  • Make sure that you have the original bottles for all of the prescriptions you’ll be taking with you. You’ll also need the original containers for any vitamins and over-the-counter allergy medications you use.
  • If necessary, get a medical information bracelet to wear on your trip. You should also call your insurance company to find out if your policy covers medical treatment abroad.

This is also a good time to book your regular preventive health medical and dental checkups for your international travel. You don’t want to be on your trip and find out that you have high blood pressure or a cavity, then scramble to find a doctor or spend your time in pain. Discovering health problems before you go lets you start your treatment plan early. While at your appointment, talk to your doctor or nurse about your upcoming trip. They may have suggestions for preventative care that you haven’t considered yet.

Research location-specific holiday resources

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) online. Travelers can choose their destination and then select specific situations; for example, traveling with kids, going on a cruise ship or being pregnant. You’ll also get general travel suggestions that aren’t location-dependent.

Say you’re going to Belize and you’re traveling with children. You’ll get information about the different vaccines and medicines you and your kids need. The CDC suggests getting vaccinated for hepatitis A before traveling to Belize. It also says, though, that children under the age of six months should not get the vaccination. Additionally, it suggests that all travelers, regardless of destination, should get the measles vaccine.

You can also learn about other health and safety issues. This includes what to eat and drink, preventing bug bites and getting medical care abroad. For example, if you’re traveling to Costa Rica, food and water standards are different from those in the U.S. Extra precautions should be taken in remote areas. They also have a link to Costa Rica’s embassy; you might need to verify prescription drugs you want to bring on your trip.

And then, for example, if you’re pregnant, you can apply healthy pregnancy tips you would normally follow to your destinations.

Required vaccinations for popular international destinations

According to National Geographic, the Peruvian Amazon; Fanjingshan, China; and Dakar, Senegal are three of the best places to visit in 2019. Let’s see what the CDC says about health tips for traveling to these locations:

  • Peru: CDC recommends vaccines for hepatitis A and typhoid for travelers headed to Peru. You can contract these diseases via food and water anywhere in the country. Other vaccinations to talk to your doctor about include hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, and yellow fever.
  • China: CDC recommends hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations for travelers visiting China. Also recommended are Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, polio, rabies, yellow fever and malaria.
  • Senegal: CDC recommends many of the same vaccinations for visitors to Senegal. This includes hepatitis A and B, malaria, typhoid, rabies and yellow fever. It also suggests the meningitis vaccination.

For any location, the CDC recommends being up-to-date on all suggested routine vaccinations. That incluces those for flu, whooping cough, and HPV. Suggested vaccines for preventive health care before international travel varies based on your age and health status. It’s also important how old you were when you received childhood vaccinations.

Food tips for staying healthy abroad

Even if food isn’t contaminated, you may still have a bad reaction to foods you’re not used to eating. Here’s how to avoid unpleasant, food-related health situations when traveling:

  • Stick to hot food cooked thoroughly and at high temperatures. This type of cooking process usually kills off bacteria.
  • Don’t eat food from street vendors, as delicious as it may look.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Unless you’re going to a highly reputable restaurant, don’t eat uncooked or undercooked seafood products.
  • Peel fruit yourself and wash any produce before consuming it.
  • Only drink water from a commercially-sealed bottle, and don’t use ice in your drinks.

Part of the fun of travel is trying different foods and sampling street foods. If you want to make this part of your trip, find a guide who is used to working with people from your home country. They’ll be able to advise you on what you should try and what may disagree with you.

Practicing self-care when traveling

Even if the preventive health measures you take before international travel suggest you’re 100% healthy, you still want to feel good when away. Here’s how:

  • Start getting on the new time zone a few days before your trip, making small changes each night. This will help you avoid jet lag and not waste time catching up on sleep in your destination,
  • Make sure you’re comfortable when traveling. You’ll be rested when you arrive at your destination. And you won’t have annoying neck pain from sleeping in a weird position on the plane. Your comfy travel kit can include a sleep mask, a travel pillow and melatonin to make you drowsy.
  • Book a massage for the day you land or the first full day there. Not only will a massage loosen sore muscles, but it can energize you for the adventure ahead.
  • Pick up a new wellness habit in your destination. For example, you can learn the art of meditation in Asia, then take what you learned back home with you.

Self-care shouldn’t stop just because your normal routine changes for a week or so. Your well-being is always important, no matter where on the map you are at the moment.

There are all sorts of ways to protect your health when traveling. It’s integral to your long-term health to get the right vaccinations ahead of time. This is especially true if you’re traveling to high-risk destinations. Even with all of the necessary precautions, though, you still have to care for yourself during your trip. Put health and wellness at the top of your priority list. You’ll find you’re able to reap the benefits of your trip because you’ll be feeling top-notch.

About Jori Hamilton


Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest who covers travel, social issues, and technology. You can follow her on twitter @hamiltonjori

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