International travel is exciting, but it’s important to think through what can jeopardize your health while traveling. From disease outbreaks and poor water and food quality to testing and masking requirements, there are a number of things to consider.
Path to improved health
Before you travel, plan ahead:
Check global government travel health advisories for the area to which you are traveling. This will tell you if there are health concerns restricting your travel or alerting you to important precautions to take.
Some destinations require COVID testing prior to entry. This information may need to be entered into a country-specific travel portal. Links to these portals can be found on most international airline websites. Also, it is a good idea to travel with your COVID vaccine card.
See your doctor at least 6 weeks before you leave. You may need immunizations or vaccinations for the areas you are visiting. Some vaccines don’t reach the highest protection until about 6 weeks after you get the shots.
Have medical and dental check-ups before your trip. Be aware of health problems you have. Find out about medicines you’ll need to take with you.
Find out what your health insurance will pay for if you see a doctor while you’re in another country. Carry enough of your regular prescription and over-the-counter medicines in their original containers. Carry a few extra day’s worth of the medicines as well, in case you are delayed getting home. Bring your eyewear prescriptions. If you wear glasses and contacts, bring both. Wear a medical information bracelet, if needed. If you’re flying, make sure your prescription medication and eyewear are in your carry-on luggage.
Bring a first-aid kit. Not all items listed below are necessary. You can customize your kit. It may include:
- Your prescription medicines, in their original containers
- Medicine for diarrhea and upset stomach
- Antacid for indigestion
- Cough and cold medicines
- Pain medicines (aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen)
- Decongestants and antihistamines for allergies (non-drowsy formula)
- Antibiotic ointment
- A mask to cover your face and nose (this may be used to protect against a virus outbreak or high levels of pollution)
- Adhesive bandages
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Moleskin for blisters
- Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and lip balm
- Medicine for motion sickness (dimenhydrinate)
- Other medicines for nausea and altitude sickness (promethazine and acetazolamide)
- Scissors, tweezers, nail clippers, pocketknife (checked bags only if flying), thermometer, and a mirror
- Hand wipes and hand sanitizer
Things to consider
Consider what you’ll eat while traveling. If you’re going to a country with an increased risk of traveler’s diarrhea, plan to eat carefully. Hot, well-cooked food is usually safest. Avoid eating foods from street vendors, unpasteurized dairy products, and raw or uncooked seafood. Peel fruits yourself. Drink water from commercially sealed bottles. Or drink hot or carbonated beverages. Avoid ice. Use bottled water when you brush your teeth.
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.