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Healthy Travel and Special Needs

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

  • Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.


Your good health is one of your most important assets. You guard it in everyday living, and you must also protect it when you are traveling. When traveling overseas you may need vaccinations and medications that you don't need when traveling domestically. As usual, the Internet comes through with information on what's needed for each country. You can also surf the Web to find what to put in your travel first aid kit and how to prepare for travel if you or a companion are disabled.

Safeguarding Your Health

Sometimes the most reasonable, commonsense practices are the ones most often overlooked when you are on vacation or on the road. This often happens because we travel to destinations that are foreign to us.

For example, most people remember to use extra sun protection when they visit tropical areas, but they may not realize that this is also necessary for ski resorts.

You should always read as much as you can about your destination to determine what extra supplies you might need to take to protect your health. With Internet resources, it's easy to find this type of information.

Health Information for Your Destination at Travel Health Online

A great place to start is the Travel Health Online website at www.tripprep.com. This website requires registration, but it is free. The website is easy to use, and it contains a wealth of information that travelers will find informative for protecting their health.

The Destination information of the Travel Health Online website, shown in Figure 8.1, covers destinations from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and everything in between. The information for each country is invaluable for travelers. The status of the medical care in each country is detailed. The problem diseases and recommended and required vaccinations are listed. There is also information on insect-borne, and food and water-borne, diseases of the country. There is also information on weather and crime. In addition, the site lists each country's consular information, including the address, telephone number, and email address of the U.S. and Canadian Embassies.

Figure 8.1

Figure 8.1 The Destination Information section of the Travel Health Online website is a "don't miss" area for international travelers.

While you are at the Travel Health Online website, be sure to check out the Traveler Information and Travel Medicine Providers areas. The Traveler Information area provides data on everything from altitude illness to yellow fever. The Travel Medicine Providers area gives addresses and contact information for medical providers in the U.S. and countries around the world. The website states that the medical providers' information has not been verified nor their medical status reviewed, but in an emergency, it may be beneficial to have a medical contact, especially in a foreign country.

Advice from the Centers for Disease Control Website

When looking for health information for an upcoming trip, don't overlook the excellent information provided by the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov. Its Travelers' Health area (www.cdc.gov/travel), shown in Figure 8.2, is filled with useful health information.

Figure 8.2

Figure 8.2 The Travelers' Health area of the CDC website has valuable health information for travelers.

The Illness and Injury Abroad section of the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/travel/illness_injury_abroad.htm is a great resource for travelers who visit foreign countries. It covers travel-specific warnings but also has information on medical emergencies. Perhaps even more important is its information on planning for healthy travel and its tips on being prepared for health-related emergencies.

Even if you are not traveling abroad, you may want to visit the CDC website for its informative articles on healthy travel and its travel health kit information. This information, as shown in Figure 8.3, is in the Illness and Injury Abroad area at www.cdc.gov/travel/illness_injury_abroad.htm, but it is pertinent to all travelers.

Figure 8.3

Figure 8.3 The Travelers' Health Kit recommended on the CDC website is useful for all travelers.

Here are the medications that the CDC recommends you take with you when you travel:

  • Personal prescription medications (also carry copies of all prescriptions, including the generic names of medications, and a note from the prescribing physician on his or her letterhead for controlled substances and injectable medications)
  • Antimalarial medications, if applicable
  • Antidiarrheal medication (such as bismuth subsalicylate or loperamide)
  • Antibiotic for self-treatment of moderate to severe diarrhea
  • Antihistamine
  • Decongestant, alone or in combination with antihistamine
  • Anti-motion-sickness medication
  • Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or another medication for pain or fever
  • Mild laxative
  • Cough suppressant/expectorant
  • Throat lozenges
  • Antacid
  • Antifungal and antibacterial ointments or creams
  • 1% hydrocortisone cream
  • Epinephrine auto-injector (such as EpiPen), especially if you have a history of severe allergic reaction. Also available in a smaller-dose package for children.

Here are some other important items that the CDC recommends:

  • Insect repellent containing DEET (up to 50%)
  • Sunscreen (preferably SPF 15 or greater)
  • Aloe gel for sunburns
  • Digital thermometer
  • Oral rehydration solution packets
  • Basic first-aid items (adhesive bandages, gauze, ace wrap, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, cotton-tipped applicators)
  • Antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Lubricating eyedrops (such as Natural Tears)
  • First-aid quick reference card

Every two years, the CDC produces the Yellow Book, which details health information for international travel. You can order this book, but it also is posted online free of charge. Even though the book is written for health-care providers, it uses fairly simple terminology and can be useful to any international traveler. Chapters include Pre and Post Travel Recommendations, Geographic Distribution of Potential Health Hazards to Travelers, Prevention of Specific Infectious Diseases, Yellow Fever Vaccine Requirements by Country, Conveyance and Transportation Issues, International Travel with Infants and Young Children, and Advising Travelers with Specific Needs.

As noted in the CDC travelers' list, don't forget to take sunscreen. Also remember simple things like warm clothing for cold areas and sun-protective clothing for sunny places. Although layering your clothing to keep warm is always a good idea, today you can find artificially heated clothing.

For clothing with built-in sun protection, see websites such as Coolibar (www.coolibar.com), shown in Figure 8.4. This Australian company creates soft, pliable clothing that blocks the sun's burning rays.

Figure 8.4

Figure 8.4 The Coolibar website provides soft, comfortable, sun-protective clothing.

Preparation is the key when talking about staying healthy while traveling.

Consult the World Health Organization for International Travel

The World Health Organization lists a variety of travel-related health topics on its website at www.who.int/topics/en. As shown in Figure 8.5, this website has an alphabetical listing of health-related topics. It is very helpful in that you can look up any health problem you may have, such as asthma or diabetes, to get information about that disease and how it has affected people globally. The World Health Organization website also has specific information about disease outbreaks in all areas of the world. This includes full coverage of the avian influenza.

Figure 8.5

Figure 8.5 The World Health Organization website lists health topics alphabetically.

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