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From life as a business traveler to one as an exchange student or remote worker, there’s a lot you can learn about yourself and the world when you travel internationally. With international travel, you can gain exposure to new cultures, cuisines, and perspectives, and see some truly unbelievable sights along the way.
But while experiencing global cultures can be rewarding, you don’t want to be exposed to illnesses or hazardous conditions while you travel. Coronavirus has been dominating headlines recently, but it’s not the only health hazard you might experience while traveling. Here’s a look at eight travel tips to follow if you want to stay happy and healthy while abroad.
1. Get Your Vaccinations and Medication Refills
You’ll want to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your travel plans before you go. During the doctor visit, review your medical file and see which vaccinations are out of date and in need of a booster. Some of these vaccinations might include tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella. If possible, aim to get your vaccinations about three to four weeks before you leave.
In some cases, you might want to speak with a travel medicine doctor who will know more about the specific vaccines you may require. Depending on where you’ll be visiting, you may need special vaccinations to keep you safe from local hazards. These vaccines could include hepatitis A and B, cholera, typhoid fever, or yellow fever. The specialist might recommend preventative malaria medicine or even a new type of vaccine for traveler’s diarrhea.
As well as required vaccinations, make sure any prescription medications will last for the duration of your travels.
2. Pack First-Aid Supplies
Another best practice is to bring a fully stocked first-aid kit. Depending on your destination, you might not be able to rely on local supplies or assume you can pick up something at a local shop. The more remote and less developed the area, the less likely it will be to have a community market stocking first-aid supplies.
Make sure your first-aid kit has supplies like the following:
- Sterile gauze
- Sterile alcohol wipes
- Antibiotic ointment
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Motion sickness pills
- Hand sanitizer
- Pills for upset stomach
- Pain medicine
- Allergy antihistamine
3. Get Travel Health Insurance
Will your current insurance cover you during your travels? Most standard health insurance policies cover you in your home country, but not outside the country. You may have supplemental insurance from employer health insurance if traveling for business purposes. Check with your HR department to get the details.
If you don’t have insurance that covers travel, you’ll need to secure this before departure. Don’t ever assume that you will be fine without travel health insurance. Accidents and exposure to local illnesses can happen, and sometimes they lead to serious disabilities or infections.
4. Pack Supplies for Insect Protection
Mosquitoes are an unpleasant reality in some parts of the world. They’re also more dangerous in warmer regions because they can transmit diseases like malaria, Zika, and dengue fever. To protect yourself while abroad, make sure you bring supplies like insect repellant, mosquito netting, or a mesh head covering. You’ll also want lightweight long sleeve shirts and pants if exploring areas known for a heavy mosquito presence.
5. Research Your Destination
You should also research your destination to see if it has any current health advisories or other hazards. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization are excellent resources. On these sites, you can see if the region is experiencing outbreaks of illness that may spread throughout the community. You’ll also see what the organizations recommend for travel, from mild cautions to more urgent “avoid travel” warnings.
6. Have Clean Drinking Water
Clean drinking water is imperative while traveling. When visiting a region that may have contaminated water, the best course of action is to boil all water before drinking it or using it with food. Avoid tap water and ice cubes. They can harbor parasites and bacteria that make you sick.
If you aren’t sure of reliable drinking water, bring purification tablets that dissolve in water and clean it of pathogens. You’ll also want a portable, reusable water bottle with a secure lid. These bottles are also handy when traveling through airports.
7. Wash Your Hands Often
Hand washing is one of the most reliable ways to prevent illness on the road, and one of the most important airline travel tips to keep in mind.
You’ll come into contact with a lot of germs while traveling, whether you’re touching airport trays, public toilets, public transportation, door handles, or restaurant tables and chairs. Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap, and rinse thoroughly. If you are in regions with less access to water, use antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer. These options aren’t as effective, but they’ll help to kill most germs.
You should also avoid close contact with anyone showing signs of sickness, such as coughing, sneezing, fever, or excessive sweating and clamminess. In addition, keep clear of anyone with visible contagions like chicken pox or measles. You may have received the vaccine, but you could still unknowingly pass the pathogens to others around you.
8. Choose Your Food Carefully
Food poisoning happens all too often while traveling. Parasites and bacteria hiding in water can live in food that’s not cooked adequately, has become spoiled, or has been contaminated with dirty water. Before you eat something, smell it. Sometimes you can detect an off-odor that indicates it is no good.
Another trick is to take your cue from locals. If an establishment seems like a busy local hangout, it may work for you as well. And if you plan to eat fruit, you may want to consider peeling it first. If you’re in a region where pollution or contaminated water is more rampant, you might be safer by removing the skin of the fruit.
Sometimes, illnesses happen despite your best efforts. It can be especially upsetting while traveling abroad. However, by taking precautions, bringing supplies, and using effective hygiene steps, you can enjoy your international travels wherever they take you.