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Healthy Travel Abroad

How can you stay healthy on your trip?

The best way to stay healthy on your trip is to plan ahead. Visit or talk with your doctor at least 6 weeks before you travel to another country. That will give you time to get any vaccines that you or your children may need. Also ask your doctor if there are medicines or extra safety steps that you should take. Other good sources for vaccine information and healthy travel tips are your nearest travel health clinic or health department.

What can you do to prevent health problems?

Prevent infections with vaccines

  • Make sure everyone is up to date with their routine shots. These shots can protect your family from diseases such as polio, diphtheria, and measles, which are still a problem in some developing countries.
  • Get any necessary vaccinations. Your doctor or a health clinic can tell you which ones you need for your trip. Here are some examples:
    • Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended when you travel to developing countries.
    • You may need the flu vaccine because of your age or a health condition.
    • Yellow fever vaccine is encouraged if you plan to visit areas in South America and Africa where the disease is active.
    • Typhoid fever vaccine may be required if you plan to visit certain areas in Central and South America, Africa, or Asia.

Bring medicines with you

  • If anyone in the family takes medicine, bring enough to last you the whole trip.
  • If you are going to an area where malaria is a risk, ask your doctor or health clinic for a prescription to help prevent infection. This medicine works best if taken before, during, and after your trip.
  • Your doctor may suggest that you bring an over-the-counter medicine to treat simple things like fever or a rash. Here is a list of what you might want to bring:
    • Motrin (every 6 hrs) and Tylenol (every 4 hrs) – for fever or pain
    • Children’s Benadryl – for allergic reactions or an itchy rash
    • Hydrocortisone 1% cream – for itchy rashes or mosquito bites

Make safe choices as you travel

  • In malaria-infected areas, use DEET insect repellent on bare skin. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, mainly from dusk to dawn. Use mosquito netting to protect yourself and your family from bites while you sleep.
  • Many developing countries don’t have safe tap water. When visiting these places, drink only beverages made with boiled water, such as tea and coffee. Canned or bottled carbonated drinks, such as soda, or water, are usually safe. Don’t use ice if you don’t know what kind of water was used to make it. And don’t use tap water to brush your teeth.
  • Know the sources of possible injury from accidents in cars, boats, and other public transportation. Bad roads, poor driver training, and crowded roadways can make driving risky in some countries. If you are hiring a driver, or using a taxi, ask the driver to slow down or drive more carefully if you feel unsafe.
  • Air pollution in some large cities can be a problem if you have asthma or other respiratory illness. Avoid those cities when air quality is poor, or stay indoors when possible.
  • Take care around dogs and other animals. Dogs in developing countries are often not tame and may bite. Rabies is more common in tropical and subtropical regions.
  • Be aware of the danger of altitude sickness if your destination is much higher above sea level than what you’re used to. Ask your doctor for advice on how to avoid altitude sickness. He or she may prescribe medicine to help treat it.

Where can you get the best information?

Use the Internet to find travel health information. Try these websites:

  • www.cdc.gov/travel. This is the website for travel information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • www.who.int/ith/en. This website lists information from the World Health Organization (WHO) on travel, required immunizations, and disease outbreaks.
  • 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.
  • 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 want to get special travel health insurance.
  • If you are taking a cruise, you can find your ship’s health record on this website: www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp.

© 2006-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Care instructions adapted under license by Kaiser Permanente. This care instruction is for use with your licensed healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.

Content Version: 9.6.101520; Last Revised: October 10, 2011

Reviewed by Ana Saravia, MD, October, 2013

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