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Patient education: Staying healthy when you travel (The Basics)

Patient education: Staying healthy when you travel (The Basics)

Why should I think about my health before I travel? — There are a few reasons:

Many travel destinations have germs that do not exist in the US or other developed countries. When people from developed countries go to these places, they sometimes get infections.

Travel itself can be a threat to your health. Flying, for example, can increase your risk of blood clots and other health problems.

If you have an ongoing health problem, such as diabetes, it can be hard to find supplies or help if you get sick while you are away.

How do I keep from getting an infection when I travel? — If you are planning to go to Asia, Africa, South America, or Eastern Europe, make an appointment at a travel clinic. The doctors and nurses there can help you prepare for your trip. Depending on your destination, you might need to:

Have 1 or more vaccines, weeks or months before you go. For example, if you are traveling to parts of Africa or South America, you might need to get a vaccine against yellow fever.

Avoid ice, tap water, and certain foods or parts of foods that can carry germs. If you drink untreated water or eat certain foods, you might get an infection that causes diarrhea, vomiting, or other problems.

Treat the water you drink to make sure that it has no germs that could cause infection. To get rid of germs, boil water for 3 minutes and then let it cool. Another way to get rid of germs is to take 2 quarts of water, add 2 drops of 5% bleach, and wait 30 minutes.

Use bug spray that has DEET or a chemical called picaridin. Wear clothes that protect you from insect bites. Check yourself for insects and remove them if you find any. Insects can infect you with germs they carry when they bite or sting you.

Take medicines before and during your trip that can prevent infections such as malaria.

Wear shoes that cover your feet completely if you are anywhere that might have traces of dog or human waste in the sand or soil. This can happen in places that do not have good plumbing or that do not treat toilet water before dumping it. If you walk barefoot in places like these, you can get infected with worms.

What if I have a health condition, but I want to travel? — If you have an ongoing health problem, such as diabetes or heart disease, ask your doctor or nurse how to plan for your trip.

Many people with health concerns can travel without any problems. Plan ahead, and make sure that you have all of the medicines and supplies you might need. Bring a list of all of the medicines you take, the doses, and why you take them.

Some examples of special needs people might have:

Some people with diabetes must carry pills, insulin, and syringes when they fly. They usually have a letter from their doctor explaining their needs.

Some people with lung or heart disease need extra oxygen when they fly. That's because the air on a plane that is in-flight tends to have less oxygen than the air on the ground. People who need oxygen on the plane must arrange it with the airline before they fly.

Some people with blood clotting problems or bad veins need to stand up and move around if they are on a long flight. Otherwise, they can develop blood clots. They might also need to wear special stockings that improve blood flow in the legs.

What if I am pregnant and want to travel? — It's usually safe to travel during pregnancy. But people who have had problems during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, should limit air travel. There are no known risks of air travel for an unborn baby.

During long flights, pregnant people should stretch and flex their legs. They should also stand up and move around when it is safe to do so. This can prevent blood clots from forming in the legs.

Some of the vaccines and medicines given to travelers are not safe during pregnancy. If you want to travel to a country where infection is a concern, ask your doctor or nurse if you can safely go there. For example, many experts recommend that:

Pregnant people should avoid travel to places where there is malaria.

People who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, should avoid travel to places where there is Zika virus.

What else should I think about when I travel? — If you are going to:

A sunny or warm place – Wear sunblock and clothes that block the sun. Getting too much sun can lead to sunburns and increase the risk of skin cancer.

The mountains or a place at high altitude – Ask your doctor how you can keep from getting sick.

A place with a lot of traffic – Remember that the rules of the road are often different in other countries. Be extra careful when driving or crossing the street.

There is a tool available through Massachusetts General Hospital that lets you enter your age and where you plan to travel, then gives you tips. This includes a checklist of things to do before, during, and after your trip. The information is based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC"). To use this tool, go to www.gten.travel/trhip/trhip.

More on this topic

Patient education: Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg) (The Basics)
Patient education: Lowering the risk of a blood clot (The Basics)
Patient education: Activity during pregnancy (The Basics)
Patient education: Enteric (typhoid and paratyphoid) fever (The Basics)
Patient education: Malaria (The Basics)
Patient education: Jet lag (The Basics)

Patient education: General travel advice (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Supplemental oxygen on commercial airlines (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
Disclaimer: This generalized information is a limited summary of diagnosis, treatment, and/or medication information. It is not meant to be comprehensive and should be used as a tool to help the user understand and/or assess potential diagnostic and treatment options. It does NOT include all information about conditions, treatments, medications, side effects, or risks that may apply to a specific patient. It is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for the medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of a health care provider based on the health care provider's examination and assessment of a patient's specific and unique circumstances. Patients must speak with a health care provider for complete information about their health, medical questions, and treatment options, including any risks or benefits regarding use of medications. This information does not endorse any treatments or medications as safe, effective, or approved for treating a specific patient. UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates disclaim any warranty or liability relating to this information or the use thereof. The use of this information is governed by the Terms of Use, available at https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/know/clinical-effectiveness-terms. 2024© UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates and/or licensors. All rights reserved.
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