(RxWiki News) Book trip. Check. Reserve hotel room. Check. But before you pack your bags and head out, it's wise to consider one more important factor: your health.
Traveling abroad can expose you to a number of risks — from infectious diseases to foodborne illnesses to transportation incidents. But with a little planning and research, you may be able to help keep that exciting summer trip fun and safe.
Here's what you need to know about traveling smart for your health.
1) Consider Food and Water Safety
When you're visiting another country, be cautious about what you eat and drink.
Contaminated foods and drinks can cause travelers’ diarrhea, among other diseases. Travelers to developing countries are especially at risk for travelers’ diarrhea.
Avoiding raw food is also important. In the case of raw fruits or vegetables, these may be safe to eat if you peel them yourself or wash them in water that is either bottled or disinfected. Be cautious when eating food from street vendors.
Regarding drinks, bottled or canned drinks are most often safe. However, tap water can be risky, especially in developing countries. This is also the case with ice because it is more than likely made from tap water. Even fountain drinks can be risky. Drinks from fountains are typically made with tap water.
2) Protect Yourself from Bugs Like Mosquitoes and Ticks
- Use an approved insect repellent.
- Be sure to dress appropriately. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat.
- If possible, sleep in an air-conditioned room that is screened properly. If not, make sure to use a mosquito net. For more information, read "Staying Mosquito-Free This Summer."
3) Regularly Wash Your Hands with Soap and Water
Hand-washing is a key way to prevent illnesses — no matter where you travel. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
4) Do NOT Touch the Wildlife, Especially Monkeys, Dogs and Birds
Although they may look adorable, do not pet the animals you encounter on your trip. They can kick, bite or scratch you — causing you harm. Some animals may even have rabies or be able to transmit serious infections.
5) Verify Your Travel Vaccinations
The recommended vaccinations will depend strongly on where you will be visiting.
Visit your health care provider at least four to six weeks before you travel. Based on the places you will be visiting on your trip, your health care provider will tell you which vaccines are recommended and can offer you these particular vaccines for your travel destinations.
If you have not looked up information about your travel destination, you can do so at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers' Health site.
Receiving your vaccinations at least four to six weeks before you travel is important because you may require a vaccine series (more than one vaccine), and it gives your body enough time to build up effective protection.
If your health care provider does not offer travel vaccines, you may need to visit a travel clinic.
Check to see if the yellow fever vaccination is recommended or required for the places you will be visiting. If you need the yellow fever vaccine, it can only be offered by a registered provider and must be administered at least 10 days before travel.
Finally, follow up with your health care provider or travel clinic when you return from your trip.
Speak with your local community pharmacist about all of your travel health needs.
Written by Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS