How Planning Ahead Can Reduce Your Chance of Becoming Sick While Traveling

Prepa­ra­tion tips to man­age an ill­ness or injury when you’re away from home

Trav­el­ing is a great way to expe­ri­ence new things and make last­ing mem­o­ries. Devel­op­ing an ill­ness while you’re away from home can be stress­ful and have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on your plans. Whether you’re trav­el­ing local­ly or out­side of the Unit­ed States (U.S.), it’s impor­tant to be aware of the pos­si­ble health risks you may encounter on your trip and have a plan to min­i­mize them and address any symp­toms that may devel­op, should you become ill. Infec­tious Dis­ease and Trav­el Med­i­cine physi­cian, Noziana Aftab, MD, shares tips to keep you healthy while you’re on-the-go.

Before trav­el­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly, you should: 

  • Check the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) web­site (CDC​.Gov) for cur­rent health risks, the lat­est advi­so­ry infor­ma­tion and vac­ci­na­tion recommendations.
    • If vac­ci­na­tions are rec­om­mend­ed, sched­ule an appoint­ment as soon as pos­si­ble, as some vac­ci­na­tions require mul­ti­ple dos­es or take time (weeks or months) to become ful­ly effective.
  • Check with your insur­ance car­ri­er to deter­mine if your pol­i­cy includes med­ical care while you are trav­el­ing. If you have cov­er­age, be sure to pack your insur­ance card.
    • If your insur­ance plan does not include med­ical care out­side of the U.S., short-term cov­er­age for trav­el-relat­ed med­ical ser­vices may be available.
    • Medicare does not cov­er med­ical costs out­side of the U.S. You can con­tact AARP for infor­ma­tion on med­ical care cov­er­age through sup­ple­men­tal plans for seniors.
  • Fill out the emer­gency con­tact infor­ma­tion on the inside of your passport.
  • Keep a list of your med­ical con­di­tions and the med­ica­tions you are tak­ing with you.
  • Check with the embassy of the coun­try you are vis­it­ing to ensure your med­ica­tions are allowed and bring med­ica­tions in their orig­i­nal, clear­ly-marked containers.
    • You may need to obtain a pre­scrip­tion for any con­trolled sub­stances you may be taking

For local or inter­na­tion­al trav­el, bring an assort­ment of over-the-counter items to address a vari­ety of symp­toms including:

  • Headache and body pain or fever — ibupro­fen, Tylenol
  • Diar­rhea or indi­ges­tion - Imod­i­um, Pepto-Bismol
  • Heart­burn, gas or bloat­ing — Tums
  • Cuts, scrapes or burns — Band-aids, poly­sporin
  • Cold or aller­gy symp­toms such as nasal con­ges­tion, cough­ing, sneez­ing or sore throat — anti­his­t­a­mines, decon­ges­tants, nasal sprays and inhalers
  • Bug bites — mos­qui­to repel­lent with 30 per­cent DEET or higher
  • Sun burn — sun­block with SPF30 or high­er, sun­glass­es and a wide-brimmed hat
  • Motion or alti­tude sick­ness — your pri­ma­ry care provider may be able to pre­scribe you med­ica­tions to take as needed
  • Sleep dis­rup­tion — noise-can­celling earplugs

While not all ill­ness­es can be avoid­ed, you can reduce your risk of devel­op­ing an ill­ness by fol­low­ing these tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water often and keep hand san­i­tiz­er accessible.
  • Avoid tap water, bev­er­ages con­tain­ing ice cubes and foods that are uncooked or washed with tap water. When­ev­er pos­si­ble, opt for bot­tled bev­er­ages and stick to fruits you can peel your­self and cooked foods.
  • Watch what you eat. Try­ing new foods can be fun and enhance your trav­el expe­ri­ence, how­ev­er, dras­ti­cal­ly chang­ing your diet over a short peri­od of time can upset your stom­ach and cause diges­tive issues.
  • Stay hydrat­ed and get enough sleep. This will keep your body’s immune sys­tem strong and help you fight off any bac­te­ria or germs you may be exposed to.
  • Pro­tect your­self from the sun and insects when­ev­er you plan to spend time out­doors* espe­cial­ly at dawn and dusk.
    • You should always check for ticks after spend­ing time in wood­ed areas.

Should you become sick while trav­el­ing, you can relieve symp­toms by:

  • Skip­ping stren­u­ous activ­i­ties and giv­ing your body time to rest, espe­cial­ly if you have a fever.
  • Tak­ing a hot bath or show­er can help reduce inflam­ma­tion and relieve cold or flu symp­toms such as cough­ing and chest and/​or nasal congestion.
  • Select­ing foods that are mild and easy to digest if you expe­ri­ence diges­tive issues includ­ing upset stom­ach or heartburn.
  • Stay­ing hydrated.

If your symp­toms don’t improve or wors­en, you may need to seek med­ical care. If you are out­side of the U.S., a list of Eng­lish-speak­ing health­care providers can be obtained from the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Med­ical Assis­tance to Trav­el­ers. While you can’t pre­vent ill­ness or injury entire­ly, plan­ning ahead can reduce your chances of get­ting sick while trav­el­ing. Learn more about our Infec­tious Dis­ease and Trav­el Med­i­cine providers, or to sched­ule an appoint­ment for a con­sul­ta­tion and vac­cines pri­or to your next trip call 630−545−4075 or sched­ule online.

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