First of all, congratulations if you are planning a trip to a location off the beaten path such as South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia. Second, you'd better take some precautions to ensure your trip is the trip of a lifetime and not the disappointment of a lifetime. The following tips will help you prepare for your trip and reduce the chance of it ending in disaster. Some pitfalls to watch out for are mosquito-borne diseases, food and water-borne diseases, and medical emergencies.
1. Study up on the health risks in your destination countryDestinations that are (a) closer to the equator and/or (b) lack first-world sewer and water systems provide greater health risks to visitors. A very smart thing to do is to check the "Traveler's Health" section of the U.S. CDC's website. The CDC breaks down health risks and vaccine recommendations for travel to every country in the world. Perhaps most importantly, the CDC provides information about ongoing disease outbreaks on its destination pages.
2. Get all CDC-recommended vaccines and medicines prior to travelingTravelers should get all CDC-recommended vaccines and medicines, including malaria pills if needed, to safeguard their health and well-being while abroad. CDC recommendations are based on thorough research and analysis of disease prevalence and risks in specific regions. By getting vaccinated, travelers can significantly reduce their chances of contracting and spreading infectious diseases, ensuring a safer travel experience. Similarly, taking prescribed medicines like malaria pills helps prevent malaria, a potentially life-threatening disease prevalent in many tropical and subtropical regions. Adhering to CDC recommendations regarding vaccines and medicines provides travelers with the necessary protection and peace of mind to enjoy their journey while minimizing health risks. The best place to get necessary travel vaccines and expert health advice is at a travel clinic that specializes in getting people ready for their trip. Away Clinic, a travel clinic in Mesa, AZThe most common vaccines given to U.S. travelers before they go abroad are the yellow fever vaccine, typhoid vaccine, and Japanese encephalitis vaccine. The yellow fever vaccine is required for entry into many countries, particularly in Africa. The proportion of travel vaccines administered in 2022 | Away Clinic
3. Avoid illnesses that are spread through food and waterTo minimize the risk of water and foodborne illnesses such as traveler's diarrhea, typhoid, and salmonella while traveling, it is essential to adopt certain precautions:
- Get all CDC-recommended vaccines. The typhoid vaccine is recommended for travel to all developing countries in the world. The cholera vaccine may also be needed depending on your destination. Even if you grew up in a developing country you still need to get vaccinated because immunity to these diseases wears off over time. These vaccines prevent diseases that are spread by food and water, primarily through fecal contamination.
- Drink only bottled water or water that has been properly treated and disinfected. Avoid consuming tap water, using it to brush your teeth, or adding ice to your drinks unless you are sure it is safe.
- When it comes to food, opt for freshly cooked meals and avoid street food or raw and undercooked dishes. Stick to fruits that you can peel yourself and avoid salads or uncooked vegetables that may have been washed with contaminated water. Additionally, ensure that any dairy products you consume are pasteurized.
- Proper hand hygiene is crucial, so remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water before eating or handling food. If handwashing facilities are not available, use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content.
4. Minimize mosquito exposureWhen traveling to regions such as South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia where mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent, it is crucial to take necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
- Get vaccinated. Depending on where you're traveling, the yellow fever vaccine or Japanese encephalitis vaccine may be necessary to guard against mosquito-borne diseases.
- Apply insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. When applied on exposed skin and clothing, these repellents act as a deterrent to make mosquitoes lose interest.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks for extra protection, especially during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- Where possible, stay in accommodations with screens on doors and windows or use bed nets treated with insecticides.
- Pour out any standing water located in or near your accommodations. Mosquitoes use standing water to breed.
5. Watch out for dogs, ticks, and other animals that can spread diseaseMosquitoes are the biggest problem to humans but depending on where you travel to, it may also be important to safeguard against diseases spread by ticks, dogs, and other non-mosquito animals. For example, ticks are spreading tick-borne encephalitis in the backcountry of Eastern Europe (there is a vaccine for this now). Precautions taken to avoid mosquitoes, such as insect repellent and covering of exposed skin with long clothing can also help stave off ticks. Additionally, you can tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants to deny ticks access to your body. You should also check your skin on your whole body for ticks when you go inside for the day. You should avoid approaching stray or unfamiliar animals, as they may carry diseases. Be cautious while handling or petting animals, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. With dogs, the biggest threat to humans is rabies in many developing countries. Just stay back, and if you expect to have a lot of exposure to dogs and wild animals, you should talk to a travel health specialist about possibly getting the rabies vaccine before you travel.
6. Eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and stay hydratedA balanced and nutritious diet strengthens the immune system, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health and help fight off infections. Sufficient sleep allows the body to repair and regenerate, boosting immune function and reducing the risk of chronic conditions. Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining optimal bodily functions, including immune response, digestion, and toxin elimination. Proper hydration ensures the efficient transport of nutrients and oxygen to cells while supporting the body's defense mechanisms. By prioritizing these lifestyle factors, individuals can enhance their immune system's resilience, improve overall well-being, and reduce their susceptibility to various diseases.
7. Get travel insuranceYou may think of travel insurance as just something to cover a trip cancellation but actually, travel insurance can cover much more. The right travel insurance can provide you with a phone number you can call if you have a medical emergency while traveling, free medical evacuation services, and medical insurance during your trip. If you do have a medical emergency during your trip you will be relieved to have good travel insurance.
SummaryIf you are traveling to an exotic location you may be exposed to exotic diseases as well. Take basic precautions including visiting a travel clinic to get CDC-recommended vaccines before you go and to learn about the health risks. You should also make sure you actively take precautions to avoid mosquitoes, and other animal, food, and waterborne illnesses. Taking care of your body by eating nutritious meals, staying hydrated, and getting sufficient sleep can help strengthen your body's immune system to help you avoid disease. Lastly, get travel insurance that includes coverage in case of a medical emergency while you're in your destination country.