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Ten Health Tips For International Travel

Armen Hareyan's picture

Michelle Reesman, RN, Executive Director, Passport Health Colorado, says far too many international travelers, from business travelers to the more adventurous types, leave home without taking the basic steps she suggests below. "People need to put the same kind of preparation into their health as they do into their destination choice, passport acquisition or flight plans," Reesman advises.

1) Get advice from a travel health professional. Four to six weeks before departure, consult a travel medicine specialist for the most up-to-date immunization, malaria recommendations and consultation. They can answer your questions and prepare you for a safe and healthy trip. It's important to get your immunizations early, as some of the vaccines take time to effectively protect you..

2) Protect yourself from disease-bearing insects. Wear protective clothing and use products containing 20-30% DEET, the insect repellant permethrin and bed nets.

3) Never go barefoot, even on the beach.

4) Make sure your water is purified. Do not use tap water when brushing your teeth.

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5) Consume only well-cooked food. Fruits and veggies? Peel it, boil it or forget it!

6) Pre-fill your prescriptions, they may not be available at your destination. Take extra in case your trip is extended. In some countries counterfeit medications can be a problem. Carry medications in their original packaging and pack in your carry-on luggage.

7) Don't swim in rivers, lakes, ponds and streams. Well-chlorinated pools and salt water are usually considered safe.

8) Take a basic first aid kit. Include medications for pain relief, such as ibuprofen and Tylenol, topical preparations for minor skin wounds and infections, and medications for allergic reactions (Benadryl). Consider presumptive treaent (Imodium and an antibiotic) for traveler's diarrhea. Discuss the appropriate antibiotics for your destination with a travel health specialist.

9) Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of medical problems among tourists. Avoid riding motorcycles or wear a helmet and don't drink and drive. Wear a seatbelt and only travel during daylight hours.

10) Purchase travel insurance that includes emergency medical evacuation. Most medical insurance plans aren't accepted when you travel internationally.