How can you stay healthy on your trip?
The best way to stay healthy on your trip is to plan before you go. If you are planning to travel to another country, see a doctor at least 6 weeks before you leave so you will have time for vaccines (immunizations) that you may need to get ahead of time.
Also ask your doctor if there are medicines or extra safety steps that you should take. For example, people who have heart failure may need to take shorter flights with more stops to avoid long periods of sitting. Or someone visiting Africa may need to take medicine to prevent malaria.
Where can you get the best information?
You can use the Internet to find general travel health information. Just make sure the information is up-to-date and from a reliable source. You can also find out if there are any problems with disease outbreaks in the places you will be visiting. Try these websites:
If you are taking a cruise, you can find your ship's sanitation inspection scores on this website: www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp.
Find out where you can get the best medical care in the region you are visiting. The U.S. State Department's website, www.usembassy.gov, lists every U.S. embassy worldwide and lists some doctors and medical facilities in those countries.
If you are traveling out of the country, take along the phone numbers and addresses of embassies in the areas you will visit. They can help you find a doctor or hospital. Find out if your insurance company will cover you. You may need special travel health insurance.
Which immunizations and medicines will you need?
Check with the nearest travel health clinic, your regional health department, or your doctor to see what kind of vaccines you should get. In the United States, most state health clinics can give you travel vaccines, some medicines, and healthy travel tips. If your state health clinic does not give vaccines for travelers, ask if there is a clinic nearby that does.
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for most people traveling to developing countries. Hepatitis A (or Hep A) is one of the most common diseases found in returning travelers. You can easily prevent hepatitis A by getting the vaccine.
Make sure that all routine shots are up-to-date for you and your children. These shots can protect you from diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, and rubella, which are still a problem in some developing countries.
If your doctor has told you that you should have the pneumococcal vaccine (to prevent complications of pneumonia) or a flu vaccine because of your age or a health condition, it is important that you get those vaccines before you leave.
The yellow fever vaccine is now required for travelers who plan to visit countries in South America and Africa where the disease is active.
You may need to have the typhoid fever vaccine, especially if you are traveling to an area where the risk of typhoid fever is high. These areas include Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. The nearest travel health clinic or health department will have the most recent recommendations.
You may need other vaccines, depending on where you are going, how long you will be there, and what you plan to do while you are there.
What precautions should you take while you travel?
Before you go, find out about the places you plan to visit. Is the water safe to drink? Do mosquitoes or other bugs carry disease? Is there air pollution? Will you be at a high altitude that could make you sick? Is it safe to swim in pools, lakes, or the ocean? Could you get heat exhaustion, sun stroke, or a sunburn?
Basic safety can prevent some illnesses:
Getting a disease on your trip is probably what you think about when you hear about travel health. But it is important to know about other ways you can be hurt. Many travelers are hurt in car accidents. If you must drive, learn about local driving customs, such as driving on the left side of the road. Travel during daylight when you can. Always use seat belts. If you use hired drivers (such as in a taxi), don't be afraid to ask your driver to slow down or to drive more carefully.
What if you get sick while you are traveling?
Diarrhea is the most common illness to strike travelers. Traveler's diarrhea is most common in developing countries where food and water are not as safe.
Traveler's diarrhea most often begins quickly with watery diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, and a low fever. Many doctors recommend trying to eat as normally as possible. If you are vomiting, try to drink water or other clear fluids. Watch for signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth and dark-colored urine. If possible, drink rehydration drinks to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Most cases of travelers' diarrhea get better in 1 to 3 days without treatment. But see a doctor if diarrhea lasts longer than 7 days, or if you have a high fever, blood or mucus in your diarrhea, or signs of dehydration.
If you become seriously ill while traveling, your country's embassy or consulate can help you find medical care. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in malaria-risk areas, get medical help right away.
Should you see a doctor when you return?
If you were healthy during your trip and you feel well when you return home, you probably do not need to see a doctor.
If you were sick with a fever or severe flu-like illness while traveling, see your doctor when you get home. Also, if you get sick with a fever or severe flu-like illness for up to 6 months after coming home, see your doctor. Tell your doctor the places you visited and whether you think you may have gotten a disease. Many diseases do not show up right away, and some can take weeks or months to develop. Many travelers who get malaria don't have symptoms until they get home.
Other symptoms to watch for after you come back home include:
Frequently Asked Questions
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