International Travel Health Tips

Things We've Picked Up
Or Learned NOT to Pick Up From Our Travels

International travel health tips are every bit as important as trip planning and packing tips!

Nothing will spoil a trip faster than not feeling well...

...or getting really sick or hurt.

So what travel health tips do we have to help you stay healthy when you travel?

We'll go through some of the basics.... and our thoughts on how to deal with disease outbreaks like the latest influenza or health scare.


Our basic philosophy is be prepared, stay informed... and travel anyway.

You want to be healthy when you leave. Check with your doctor if you need to... and your dentist.... you don't want to see a dentist in a far away place if you don't have to.

Dentistry in Dejna El Fna, Morocco... it's better than this funny tourist photo

Just kidding, but you get the point.  Medical and dental facilities may not always be what you're used to.

What To Pack For Travel Health

Pack medications in your carry on luggage.

We still say never check anything you can't afford to lose..... medicines, eye glasses as well as important papers and valuables should go in your carry-on luggageTake enough medication and pack it right.

New security regulations have changed rules for packing medications to regulate how much you can take onboard.

Take copies of your prescriptions -- for glasses and medications.

Pack medications and prescriptions in your carry-on luggage

These don't take up much room, and if you absolutely have to have something refilled or replaced you can do it.

Your prescriptions are also handy if you are ever inspected at customs, and they want proof that the medications are yours.

We've only been questioned about one thing in all these years...

A pack of LifeSavers! 

It was when we entered Kenya 35 years ago.... we told the customs agent that it was candy... and he wanted to know why they were called LifeSavers. We shared with him, and he was happy. Now there's an international travel health tip to remember!

Pack something for motion sickness if you're prone to that as I am and take Pepto-Bismol along to help prevent travelers diarrhea. Speaking of diarrhea... we should say something about foreign toilets! They may not always be what you expect.

Check to see if you need to pack malaria pills.

Mosquito nets in Laos hotel - Use insect netting to prevent Malaria

Certain low altitude regions are prone to malaria and other mosquito born diseases.

You need to take them seriously and take the necessary medications and precautions. 

In addition to malaria pills, that means packing insect repellant and using mosquito netting when it's provided in hotels.

Vaccinations and Other Preparations

Vaccinations?

We've had plenty of shots through the years for our trips. All those travel health vaccinations are worth it to make sure you stay healthy. You can also read about international travel vaccinations at the Centers for Disease Control web site or get recommendations and the vaccinations from a travel medicine doctor.

The list of vaccinations isn't all that long, and you may already have some of them..... it's nothing to be worried about. You do have to plan ahead so you'll have enough time to get what you need. Believe me, this is one international travel health tip you don't want to ignore; it won't hurt that much!

See A Travel Medicine Specialist

We don't do this every trip, but when we are going to remote areas where malarial pills and vaccinations are necessary we do. A travel medicine specialist is the best source for you to check with for international travel health tips. They stay up to date on everything.

Here's an international travel health tip I almost hesitate to make because I don't want to make too much of it....

Be aware of disease outbreaks

Bird Flu, Swine Flu, SARS, HIV-AIDS... This is another place where that travel medicine specialist can help advise you.  Be aware of disease outbreaks and endemic diseases, but don't let them scare you off.... unless it will make you so uncomfortable that you won't enjoy the trip.

Bird Flu sort of came and went. We said back then, that you may be visiting a farm in the countryside, but if you don't go snuffling bird feathers you should be OK.

Swine Flu was another disease to get everyone watching worldwide. It pretty well ran its course too. Whenever any new outbreak starts making the news, it's something to be taken seriously, but our advice is to practice good hygiene, stay tuned for travel updates, and go anyway... that's what we do.

Consider Travel Health Insurance

This is something we never gave a thought to years ago. Now more and more of our friends are taking out travel health insurance for trips. It's something to think about. 

Check to see if your health insurance covers you when you travel abroad. Or check with companies that specialize in travel health insurance... you should be able to get coverage just for one trip.

Bring Along A First Aid Kit

The basics that should be included are:

         
  • bandages      
  • antibiotic ointment     
  • alcohol packets      
  • aspirin or acetaminophen or ibuprofen     
  • cold capsules     
  • seasick medication such as Dramamine      
  • eye drops if you're a contact lens wearer      
  • mosquito repellant: (remember malaria and other mosquito born diseases?)      
  • sunscreen     
  • Metamucil or similar in case there's a touch of constipation from the time and food change!     
  • diarrhea medicine.... yes, Pepto-Bismol is our choice in case you hadn't noticed!!
Pepto-Bismol for travel health in China or anywhere in the world!


Other International Travel Health Tips

In flight, drink lots of water and exercise. It will make you feel better on arrival, and it can help avoid deep vein thrombosis.

You WILL have jet lag.  Volumes have been written on jet lag and fatigue after long flights.

All the regimens that are supposed to work are too complicated for us to worry about. We just try to get outside... get sunshine and fresh air, do some walking.

Outdoor activities will help keep you awake and not let you nap during the day. Avoid indoor activities like museums the first day.... those dim quiet places can put you to sleep! It'll take a couple of days to completely acclimate, but you'll be so excited to be there that you'll keep going.

Pack a flashlight - No electricity in Dogon country Mali

Take a flashlight....

What kind of international travel health tip is this? Well, if you have to wander a dark path you don't want to fall down and hurt yourself..... or worse yet.... fall off.

In some developing countries, you could experience rolling "brown outs". And in some remote areas, there just is no electricity in the first place!

Be aware of your surroundings

Lion hiding in bush Chobe Botswana

In the African bush as well as in cities....

There may not be a pickpocket lurking, but there could be a snake...

or a lion....

Can you see her...?

The lioness in the middle of the picture?  She sees you.


OK this may be a little facetious. It's unlikely that you'll run into lions or snakes, but follow the rules and pay attention...

...so you won't get bitten by that snake, or eaten by that lion or mugged by the pickpocket.

You could twist an ankle or cut yourself or run into an allergy causing bush. All unlikely, but it never hurts to pay attention... and these international travel health tips won't take up any room in your carry-on luggage!

It's The Water....

Sometimes you need to beware of tap water.... Generally the water is probably OK in developed countries, but it never hurts to err on the side of caution and use bottled water.

Crocodile entering a river in Kenya

And then there's all the rest of the water... as in rivers, lakes and seas....

You need to know what endemic problems there are in areas you visit. Are there parasites in the rivers or lakes? Is Schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia) a problem?

If you're snorkeling or diving watch out for jellyfish stings. In waterways in Africa watch out for standing water in some places and moving water in others....

Then there is the African megafauna..... hippos and crocodiles in the water.  We were trying to fill barrels with water and got chased away by hippos once when we were camping in Botswana.

Any MORE International Travel Health Tips?

Eat well, get enough rest, wear appropriate clothing and gear for the elements and just use a little common sense. Staying healthy on the road is no different than it is at home.

International travel health tips-Farmacia in Spain

And if you need some medication on the road..... pharmacists abroad are very helpful....

Tell them if you have a head ache or a cold or whatever...

If they don't have something that is the exact same thing you would buy at home, they will have the local equivalent and you'll soon be in the pink....

Did I slip that Pepto-Bismol thing in there again? All good international travel health tips.

Our best international travel health tip is just check the basics off the list and don't worry about it. Your trip will be great!

Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark

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