Are you planning on traveling overseas on vacation? While global health has improved considerably over the last two decades, it is still important to take the right precautions before, during and after your trips overseas. While certain health conditions are commonplace in some countries, they are not common here in the US.
Thus, if you went to the hospital reporting these symptoms, it could take a while for doctors to figure out what exactly is going on with you unless it is a well-known global health problem like the Zika virus. In this post, you’ll learn of general precautions to take as you plan your overseas vacation.
Every country is different however and you will need to visit a clinic that specializes in travel healthcare to know exactly what precautions you need for a specific country. Let’s get into it.
Traveling Overseas – What To Know As You Vacation
Make sure you and your family are up to date on all routine vaccinations. This is especially important if you’re traveling with children. Make sure you’re all up to date on measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), varicella (chickenpox), polio vaccine, flu shots, and diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT) vaccines.
Several countries in South America and Africa require that you have a yellow fever vaccine before you’re admitted into the country. Yellow fever is caused by a virus which is transmitted via mosquito bites. Symptoms take around 3-6 days to develop and include fever, chills, backaches, headaches and muscle aches. If it’s left untreated, it can lead to death.
Yellow Fever vaccines are usually in short supply in the United States and can cost up to $200 per shot. However, once you receive the injection, you are protected from the disease for life.
When you receive the vaccine, you should also receive a yellow certificate of vaccination (popularly called a Yellow Card). You can present this Yellow Card to immigration officials in the country you are traveling to.
There is a high risk for malaria if you travel to parts of Central and South America, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the South Pacific. Thus it is important to ask your travel healthcare provider about receiving preventative treatment for malaria.
Taking anti-malarial drugs alone is not 100% protective against malaria. You will still have to take other precautions like using mosquito repellant on your skin, spraying the room you will be staying with insecticides that target mosquitoes and using mosquito nets while on vacation.
A mosquito repellant that is effective against malaria-causing mosquitoes should contain at least ONE of the following.
- DEET – This is regularly found in brands like Off!
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus
If you’re pregnant, are on other drugs or have known drug allergies, it is important to tell your travel healthcare provider this so they can prescribe the right medication.
While rabies may not be a risk for most travelers, if you will be working or living around animals on your vacation, a rabies vaccination is one to consider.
Food and water-borne illnesses
While you will encounter plenty of delicacies on your travels, it’s important to think about the reality of food and water-borne illnesses. If you tend to be adventurous when it comes to food, you need to pay special attention to Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
- You can get Hepatitis A from contaminated food on your travels-regardless of where you eat. There is a Hepatitis A vaccine you can receive prior to your travels. Children above 6 months of age can receive this vaccine. It is best to discuss this with your doctor and travel healthcare provider especially if you or anyone else in your family has another health condition.
- Typhoid is another common food-borne disease. Children above the age of 2 can receive a vaccine for typhoid.
- Food poisoning characterized by vomiting and diarrhea is also a common illness traveler face.
To make sure you’re eating and drinking safely while on vacation, follow these helpful tips.
- Only eat food that is cooked and served hot.
- If you’re going to eat eggs, make sure they are hard-boiled and cooked all the way.
- If you have any left-over food you want to eat, make sure to heat it up very well before you eat it.
- If you eat any fruits and vegetables, make sure you wash and/or peel them yourself.
- Only consume pasteurized dairy products.
- Avoid street vendors. While local people might enjoy street vendor food without issue, it can upset your system.
- Avoid undercooked or raw fish and meat products
- Drink bottled water. Avoid tap water.
- Drink hot coffee and tea.
- Avoid unpasteurized drinks.
If you’re traveling overseas with children, make sure they follow this food and drink advice as well. Your vacation overseas shouldn’t be marked with illness. If you’re traveling overseas – it doesn’t matter where you’re going- make sure to check in with the closest travel health clinic so you get all the necessary health information before you go.