Summer Travel Safety Tips

June 19, 2013

Every year more and more Americans are travelling internationally – for vacation, business, volunteerism, or to visit friends and family. Whatever your reason for travelling, the information on this page will help you to be Proactive, Prepared, and Protected when it comes to your health while you are travelling.
Take steps to anticipate any issues that could arise during your trip. Plan ahead for a safe and healthy trip.
Learn about your destination:

  • Are there increased risks of certain infections in the country you will be visiting?
  • Check the CDC’s website: for detailed information on suggested immunizations and health precautions for specific countries.
  • Will you be taking a physically demanding trip that requires increased conditioning beforehand?

Consider your personal health status:

  • Are you well enough to travel? (Recent illnesses, injuries, or surgeries)
  • Do you have any special health needs? (Infants, small children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, limited mobility, or weakened immune systems)

See a doctor before you travel:

  • Confirm that any chronic, ongoing medical conditions you may have, are stable.
  • Confirm you have enough of any prescription medications you routinely take to last you while you are away.
  • Ensure appropriate immunizations are up to date.
  • Obtain any extra prescriptions needed (such as malaria prophylaxis, or antibiotics for traveler diarrhea).
  • Address any recent symptoms you may be experiencing.

No one wants to think about getting sick or hurt during a trip, but sometimes these things happen. Planning ahead can better prepare you to deal with unexpected illnesses or injuries.
Pack smart:

  • Be sure your clothing is temperature appropriate for your destination.
  • Pack well broken in, stable shoes that feel comfortable on your feet.
  • Don’t forget a rain jacket and an umbrella if rain could possibly be in the forecast.

Plan ahead for potential illnesses or injuries during your trip.

  • Bring along a basic first aid kit including bandages, antibiotic ointment, and an ACE wrap.
  • Travel with a collection of basic over the counter medications including antacids, anti-diarrheal medications, antihistamines (such as diphenhydramine or Benadryl), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and Ibuprofen (Advil).
  • Familiarize yourself with the medical resources available at your travel destination
  • Consider purchasing Travel Insurance with medical coverage.

Practicing healthy behaviors while travelling is essential in protecting yourself against illness during your trip.
Pay Close Attention to Health and Safety:

  • Use sunscreen and insect repellent as appropriate.
  • Avoid unnecessary risks whenever possible.
  • Limit alcohol intake - Never drink and drive.
  • Always wear a seatbelt during car travel.
  • Always wear protective gear when participating in sports or adventure activities.
  • Respect your host country and its people by adhering to local laws and customs.

Select Food and Beverages Carefully:

  • Confirm which water sources are safe to drink. Consuming tainted water can cause traveler’s diarrhea and other diseases. Avoid tap water, well water, fountain drinks, and reconstituted juice drinks.
  • Safe beverage choices include hot coffee or tea, pasteurized milk, bottled water that has been sealed, and bottled sodas or sports drinks.
  • Stick to safe, “standard foods,” avoiding products such as local “bushmeat” (monkeys, bats, or other wild game) that may carry disease.
  • Eat only foods that have been cooked thoroughly and are served hot (no runny eggs or rare meat).
  • Ensure that all the fruits and vegetables you consume have been washed in clean water or peeled.
  • Choose hard-cooked eggs and pasteurized dairy products. Never consume any unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Avoid foods from street vendors.
  • Avoid salads and condiments made with fresh ingredients (such as salsas).
  • Use ice made only with bottled or disinfected water.
  • If bottled water is unavailable, choose water that has been appropriately treated (boiled or filtered).

Limit exposures to potentially contaminated water souces:

  • Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering or swimming. The water may be unclean.
  • Use bottled water when you brush your teeth.

Follow Strict Safety Measures when Traveling by Foot, Car, or Bus:

  • Always take road safety seriously as motor vehicle crashes, unfortunately, are the leading cause of death among healthy travelers.
  • Learn local traffic laws before attempting to drive in a different country.
  • Avoid riding motorcycles. If you must, always wear a helmet.
  • When traveling by car, ensure children are secured in appropriate car seats.
  • Choose well marked taxis, equipped with seatbelts.
  • Avoid buses or vans that appear overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy.
  • Be extra alert when crossing streets, especially in countries where people drive on the left side of the road.

Whether you are traveling within the U.S. or abroad, to a relaxing or an adventurous destination, reviewing the information listed above and taking proactive measures can help keep you and your family members prepared and protected during your next journey! Enjoy your summer!
Cynthia Vanson, M.D.
Assistant Medical Director

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