Passports, itineraries, emergency plans—there’s a lot to consider before you embark on a trip abroad. And with Zika virus and other travel-related health concerns in the news, you’re wise to include a plan for good health and well-being as you make that pre-trip checklist. Passport Health's Matthew Klapetzky shares these tips for travel outside the country.
- Opt for an ounce of prevention. As you plan your trip, consider what immunizations you might need. Some diseases that have been eradicated in North America are still common in many countries. By getting a vaccine (in pill or injection form) you can protect yourself against certain infections that may be prevalent in the country you’re visiting (Typhoid, Hepatitis A, among others). Know which vaccines are recommended or required and give yourself enough time to get vaccinated and protected.
- Anticipate your needs. Take stock of what prescriptions, if any, you’ll need to bring and make sure you bring extra since you may not be able to get them in another country. Consider packing medications for things like travelers’ diarrhea, altitude sickness and motion sickness, as well as over-the-counter medications you typically use, such as ibuprofen and allergy or cold meds, depending on your needs.
- Learn the lay of the land. Study up on the culture and environment of where you’re going. Plan for culture shock, homesickness, dietary needs, electricity standards, etc. Take the time to research any medical or security alerts that may affect your trip. Learn which public transportation is safe to use. Above all, observe and respect the culture of the country you’re visiting, especially in more socially conservative locations.
- Don’t get bugged. Take steps to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses. When traveling to countries where viruses spread by mosquitoes (Yellow Fever, Zika, etc.), bring insect repellent, long pants and long-sleeved shirts. When you can, use window or door screens to keep mosquitoes outside and sleep under a mosquito bed net. Avoid standing water and, if possible, remove it from where you’re staying to reduce mosquitos' hiding places.
- Eat, drink, but be wary. Travelers to developing countries may be at risk for diseases due to contaminated food or drinks. Eat food that is cooked and served hot to avoid germs. Food that is dry or in a sealed package is typically safe to consume. Wash fruits and vegetables in safe water or peel them yourself. Be careful of street-vendor food that may be undercooked or may have been improperly stored. Find out if local tap water is safe to drink. If you don’t trust the water, be aware of how it might sneak into your diet—in ice, juice from concentrate, fountain soda, or when brushing your teeth, for example. Instead, drink treated or bottled water.
- Expect the unexpected. If you have a sudden health issue during your trip abroad, who would you contact or where would you go? Prepare for a possible health emergency:
- Write down your emergency contact and let them know your travel plans.
- Consider health, travel, or evacuation insurance. An accident or illness abroad might not be covered by your current insurance plan.
- Know where the safe hospitals are within the region you are traveling. Be prepared to pay for services, if necessary.
- If you have allergies, make sure your traveling companions know.
- Locate the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and know how to reach them if need be.
- Make an extra copy of your passport and other important paperwork in case something is lost or stolen. Know how and have the resources to make a phone call while out of the country.
It sounds simple, but being informed and protected before your international trip will help you stay healthy and enjoy every minute.
For more information, click here or call (585) 275-8884.
Matthew Klapetzky, clinical director of Passport Health at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, oversees travel immunizations and specialty vaccines. Passport Heath specializes in travel health and safety, immunizations and vaccinations, malaria and travelers' diarrhea protections and treatments, credentialing, pre-employment, and travel supplies. Passport Health Upstate NY is located at 255 Crittenden Blvd., Rochester, NY.