Traveling Abroad: Can You Protect Your Health When Far from
by: ARA Content
Talking About Health with Jennifer Foss, R.N.
(ARA) - Less than 100 years ago, world travel was a rare
treat reserved mostly for the wealthy. Today, retirees cruise
to South America, college students study in Europe and modern
day adventurers journey through the wilderness of Africa.
But as small as the world has become, there are still health
concerns to be aware of when you travel abroad.
Get Your Shots
If you travel to countries other than Western Europe, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand or Japan, you will probably need additional
vaccines and medication. Sometimes these shots must be given
weeks or months before your departure to allow them time to
take effect, so visit your doctor early.
If you visit countries in the Indian subcontinent, East Asia
and South America, you will probably need vaccinations for
Hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, typhoid and malaria.
Visitors to the Middle East and Africa will need the above
vaccinations along with meningitis and yellow fever vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site,
www.cdc.gov, lists all immunizations needed when visiting
Pack the Medicine Cabinet
Although it may feel like you're packing everything but the
kitchen sink, there are certain items you'll need when traveling
An extra pair of eye glasses or contact lenses, along
with a current eye prescription.
A medical identification bracelet to alert others about
any health problems you may have.
Any prescription medications and a signed and dated statement
from your physician indicating the proper dosage and explaining
why you take the medication.
Over-the-counter medications and treatments that you may
need, such as diarrhea medicine, cough syrup, allergy medicine,
aspirin, eye drops, sunscreen and insect repellant. While
traveling, avoid buying over-the-counter medicine unless
you're familiar with the product. Developing countries may
not have the same quality and safety standards for medications
as in the United States.
Stop Stomach Bugs
No one wants to spend his or her vacation in the bathroom,
but the risk of intestinal infections can be high in nonindustrialized
countries with poor sanitation. To avoid traveler's diarrhea,
the CDC recommends that you:
Drink only boiled, canned, bottled or carbonated beverages.
Also, wipe off bottle and can rims to avoid contamination.
Don't drink beverages with ice.
Don't eat food purchased from street vendors.
Don't eat unpasteurized dairy products.
Boil, peel and cook all raw food, including vegetables.
If you're going to be in an area where you won't be able
to boil your water, you can purchase disinfecting iodine tablets
from your local sporting goods/camping store or pharmacy.
Insure Your Health
If you break your leg while hiking through the jungles of
Thailand, you're going to need more than a suitcase full of
antacids and aspirin. However, a trip to a foreign hospital
usually requires payment up front in advance of treatment.
A short-term health insurance policy for travelers may help
protect you from these large out-of-pocket expenses. A travel
policy may also be invaluable if you need to be transferred
to another city or country for a medical emergency. If your
health insurance company won't cover you outside of the U.S.,
there are companies that specialize in travel health insurance.