Couple on a hike while on vacation


Your survival guide to avoid getting sick on vacation

Few things ruin a vacation faster than getting sick, and it can be even more stressful if you're in a foreign country. You can't always avoid becoming ill, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce the possibility of illness while traveling out of the country.

1. Get necessary vaccinations

If you haven't been out of the county in the past six months you should talk to your health care provider or visit a travel medicine provider. He or she can make individualized travel medicine recommendations based on your specific medical history, travel itinerary and planned activities abroad to minimize your risk of exposure to infection. You may need a series of pre-travel vaccinations based on your destination(s), planned activities and your current medical condition. Keep in mind that some vaccinations need time to work. Certain countries have required vaccinations and you may need proof of vaccination to enter the country. Check the CDC or WHO websites for a complete list of country requirements.

2. Don't drink tap water

You've heard it before, and it's true. Don't use water from the tap to drink or brush your teeth. Instead, use bottled water and avoid drinks made with ice. Used boiled water (boiled for at least 5 minutes) to mix baby formula. Canned or unopened bottled beverages and drinks made with boiled water (such as tea and coffee) are typically ok to drink.

3. Avoid certain foods

It's fun to try local delicacies, but it's possible to catch many infections by eating contaminated food. Under-cooked or raw foods in particular pose a significant risk for infections. Avoid the following:

  • raw fruits and vegetables, unless you peel or wash before eating them
  • salads (raw leafy vegetables are hard to clean)
  • raw or rare meats
  • shellfish
  • cooked food that has been allowed to cool, such as from buffets and street vendors.

4. Prevent insect bites

Mosquitoes and other insects can transmit malaria and a number of other infections to people. To protect yourself wear insect repellent, trousers and long-sleeved shirts anytime you are outdoors (particularly at dusk) and don't wear perfume.

5. Wash your hands frequently

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Soap and water is the only way to remove some stool parasites.Bring hand sanitizer for those times washing isn't possible. Be sure to wash or sanitize your hands before your eat, after shaking hands or touching public property.

Remember to pack these health essentials

There are a number of important items to bring with you on any vacation to ensure you are prepared to deal with illness or injury, including:

  • immunization records
  • insurance ID cards
  • medical records for chronic illnesses or recent major surgery
  • name and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care providers
  • nonprescription medications that you might need
  • prescription medicines—carry these in their original container and keep them on your person. Don't pack these in your checked baggage.
  • first aid kit
  • sunscreen, hat, sunglasses

Taking a vacation has many health benefits, so don't let illness ruin yours. By following these tips, you and your family can return from your dream vacation as healthy as when you left. Safe travels!


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