Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Savvy Traveler

     There’s nothing more exciting than a trip outside the United States. The passport, the travel guides, the coordinated wardrobe of no-wrinkle pants and shirts. However, from a scooter accident in Milan to developing travelers’ diarrhea in Belize, venturing into foreign soil has its risks.

     Between stopping your mail and arranging a pet-sitter, here’s what you need to do to prep for your adventures abroad.
  • Make an appointment with your primary care physician at least one month before your trip and talk about your health history. Heart disease, lung conditions, and immune disorders can put you at risk for air travel. People with a history of blood clots or COPD can be affected by lower than sea level air pressure in the plane’s cabin. 
  • Share your travel plans with your doctor. China, Africa, South America, and Mexico pose greater risks for travel diarrhea and certain infectious diseases than European or Scandinavian countries. 
  • Ask your doctor about immunizations you should have specific to your area of travel before leaving. A big game hunt in South Africa or scaling the Great Wall of China might mean a typhoid vaccination. 
  • Discuss preventive medications like an antibiotic for diarrhea or an antimalaria drug recommended for trips to Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and some Pacific Islands. 
  • Request copies of your prescriptions and get the generic names for the drugs. 
  • Do your homework. Go to for country-by-country travel health information. 
  • Pack a first-aid kit in your carry-on luggage. In addition to bandages and antibiotic ointment, include hydrocortisone, ibuprofen, loperamide (Imodium), antacids, an antihistamine, and tweezers. 
  • If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair. 
  • Check your health insurance plan to see if it covers your health needs abroad. 

     An international traveler shared with me these golden rules: If you can’t open it, don’t drink it. Brush your teeth with bottled water. Order drinks without ice, and avoid street food vendors and steamed foods. And remember, the longer your trip and more remote your location, the greater the chance of getting an infectious disease. Be prepared!

Happy travel! 

By Anne Gill

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