While you’re eagerly planning social activities, sightseeing trips and other excursions for your trip, you also need to know how to keep your family healthy and safe. No matter where you’re headed, it’s important to do your homework by researching your destination and being prepared to prevent illness and injury.
Get vaccinated, if need be. Depending on where you and your family are traveling, you may need to contact your health care professional to find out whether you need specific immunizations or medicines to help protect you from illness while traveling. If your health care provider’s office does not offer specific vaccinations, you should check with your local public health department, which may hold clinics, or find out whether there is doctor specializing in infectious diseases and travel medicine in your area. Your need for vaccinations will depend on:
- Your destination
- Whether you will be spending time in rural areas
- Season of year when you will travel
- Your age, health status and previous immunizations
This visit should be scheduled at least four to six weeks before traveling to give needed vaccine(s) enough time to be effective; plus, some immunizations require a series of shots.
Which vaccinations might you need?
- Routine immunizations—Your health care provider will want to make sure you and your children are up-to-date with routine immunizations—a good idea whether you’re planning a trip or not. This may include vaccinations to prevent tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella, and influenza.
- Recommended immunizations—These vaccines are recommended to protect travelers against diseases present in other parts of the world and prevent their spread across borders. The specific vaccinations you need will depend on a number of factors including your destination, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season in which you will be traveling, your age, health status and previous immunizations. To look up the country or countries you will be visiting, go to the CDC destinations page at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.aspx.
- Required immunizations—The yellow fever vaccine is required for travelers headed to tropical South America or sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the meningococcal vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia for annual travel during the Hajj.
If you plan to visit a malaria-infected area, talk with your doctor about medications to prevent infection. You should also use DEET-containing insect repellent on exposed skin and cover up with long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
Pack a Traveler’s Health Kit. This will ensure you have the essentials to take care of minor health problems and help prevent the worsening of pre-existing medical conditions. The contents of the kit will depend on your destination, the length of the trip, type of travel and your family’s existing medical conditions.
The kit could include:
- Basic first-aid items (bandages, gauze, antibacterial ointment, 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, tweezers)
- Antibacterial gel or wipes
- Sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater that provides protection against UVA and UVB rays
- Lotion or balm containing aloe
- Lip balm with sunscreen
- Insect repellent containing DEET
- Over-the-counter medications for headaches, diarrhea, allergies, fever and pain
- Prescription medications in their original containers, as well as other medical supplies you use on a daily basis. Be sure to take enough prescription medication to cover your entire trip, especially if you’re going overseas. Ask your health care provider if you need to adjust dosages if your eating and sleeping schedules change due to time changes. Bring copies of all prescription medications, including the generic names, as well as a note from your doctor on his/her letterhead for controlled substances and injectable medications. Prepare a sheet with your family’s medical history and your doctor’s contact information.
- Anti-motion sickness medication, as recommended by your health care provider
- An extra pair of eyeglasses and/or contacts
- Digital thermometer
Contact your health insurance carrier. Find out what your plan will pay for if you need to see a doctor in another country.
Get updated information about disease and safety risks. Travel advisories, including current disease activity around the world, food and water safety, insects and more are available online. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a specialized travel section on its Web site at www.cdc.gov/travel.
Make copies of travel documents (e.g., passports, travel tickets) and get traveler’s checks. Traveler’s checks are more secure than carrying cash, although many travelers are opting to pay or withdraw cash using a debit or credit card to take advantage of better exchange rates. You’ll be glad you made copies of your documents if you happen to lose your passport or airline ticket while you’re away. Give a copy of your itinerary to a friend or family member at home, too.
Carry emergency phone numbers with you. This should include your doctor’s office, a family member or friend in your hometown and contact information for local hospitals.
See the Staying Healthy When You’re Away from Home article in this guide for more tips and information.
© 2013. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. All rights reserved. All content provided in this guide is for information purposes only. Any information herein relating to specific medical conditions, preventive care and/or healthy lifestyles does not suggest individual diagnosis or treatment and is not a substitute for medical attention.Back to Healthy Travel Guide Home Page
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