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Your Health

Global travel safety tips to stay healthy

May 23 2016
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Global travel is back in vogue. With a little advance planning and these travel safety tips, you can increase your chances of a safe and healthy trip for you and your loved ones.

Travel saftey tips for before you go

Depending on where you’re traveling, it may be necessary to make sure you’re up-to-date on your regular shots and any special vaccines (such as Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B), especially if you’re traveling to a tropical location. A doctor familiar with travel medicine would be able to make sure you get the right vaccinations, medicines and information on traveling safely if you have any further concerns or questions. Plan ahead since some vaccines take time to be effective. Tip: Many health plans don’t cover travel vaccines, so check yours before you go get your shots.

Be sure to check with your health insurance plan to determine if you have coverage outside the United States. Ask if you would be covered for a medical evacuation (a worst-case scenario). Knowing this ahead of time will help you decide whether to purchase travel insurance that would cover any evacuation needs while you and your loved ones are traveling.

Always plan to have any medication you’ll need with you, including having enough for your entire trip. It’s important to also have the packaging with the original prescription label of each medication with you to make it easier to get through inspection and security points like customs. Frequently used over the counter medications, such as pain relievers and a standard first-aid kit, can also be handy.

Check out the health care infrastructure where you’ll be traveling. It’s a good idea to see where the nearest hospitals may be and how you’d be able to get there in case of an emergency.

Travel safety tips during the trip

Flying across time zones? Try this simple trick to beat jet lag: if you’re traveling east, try going to bed earlier at night and if you’re traveling west, try staying up later.

Tips for healthier flights include:

  • Choosing a daytime flight to avoid feeling groggy
  • Skipping dehydrators like alcohol and caffeine
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Avoiding heavy foods

And if you know you may get airsick, ask your physician about remedies and be sure to keep them on hand.

For international travel, the CDC keeps a list of travel notices to alert travelers about current health issues related to specific destinations. The issues could be recent disease outbreaks to natural disasters or other conditions that could affect your health. For more information about planning for a healthy trip, you can consult your primary care physician or travel clinic.

Also, if you’re traveling abroad, it may be a good idea to register for free with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) with the U.S. Department of State, where the embassy will be able to send you key information on the country you’re visiting, help the embassy contact you in any emergency and help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

Travel safety tips after you arrive

Diarrhea, which often comes from contaminated food or water, is the most common health issue for world travelers.

To protect yourself, try to:

  • Only drink bottled water or soft drinks (skipping ice)
  • Avoid eating undercooked meat or fish
  • Boil water for at least three minutes before drinking

In tropical and subtropical countries, it’s important to pack sunscreen SPF 35 or higher and anti-tick or mosquito spray if you’ll be hiking, camping or traveling. Besides insect repellent, wearing long pants and sleeves to protect yourself from bug bites is also a viable option.

And no matter how tempting, it might be wise to avoid food from street carts or street vendors unless you are with a local who can guide you to proven favorites. If you do get sick or seriously injured, the research and measures you’ve made (researched local health care infrastructure and leaving contact information with someone who will check up on you) should work in your favor in getting you to the care you need.

Travel safety tips for getting around

Whenever and wherever you travel, safe driving is key.

Do:

  • Choose taxis that have seat belts (and use them)
  • Place all younger children in car seats
  • Ask your hotel/concierge about local public transportation options

Don’t:

  • Drink and drive
  • Drive at night, especially between cities, since you may not be familiar with the area or local laws
  • Ride or rent motorcycles or scooters without proper safety protection and a good map to find your way around.

Want more travel safety tips? Check out this helpful information from Aetna International.