When you cross an international boundary, away from your medical support system, you can put yourself at risk for illness and injury. Obtaining health and evacuation insurance for a future trip is important if you have any medical conditions, are planning trips to developing tropical or semi-tropical regions of the world, or when an international stay anywhere will be as long as a month.
What exactly does travel medicine encompass? Pre-travel medical evaluation, vaccines against endemic infectious diseases and medications to reduce the occurrence of diarrhea and malaria during trips to endemic areas, and medications for self-treatment of common illnesses such as diarrhea are fundamental to travel medicine. There are also other areas for you to consider in travel medicine, including preventing deep vein thrombosis and minimizing jet lag during long-haul air travel and reducing the occurrence of accidents and water- and altitude-related illnesses.
Knowing how to properly safeguard your health before you travel is very important — especially if you are put at great risk for illness while visiting friends and relatives living in areas of reduced hygiene. You should always have an idea of how and where you can find medical care if you are unlucky enough to develop an illness while abroad. With that in mind, here are eight recommendations for safe travel.
1. Get all the vaccines you need for your travel location. Get your doctor’s advice about which vaccines are already up-to-date. Remember that each vaccine is different. Hepatitis A, for example, will induce protective antibodies within 14 days, so should be taken at least that many days before a trip.
2. On long flights, avoid constrictive clothing and keep hydrated by drinking non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks. Exercise your leg muscles by walking down the aisle each hour.
3. Diarrhea can be a real problem in certain destinations. Eating carefully doesn’t always protect you. Talk to your doctor about medications/natural remedies you can take with you to help avoid traveler’s diarrhea.
4 Use insect repellant each afternoon and evening. Malaria risk is higher in certain parts of the world.
5. Cross a street only at lights. Drivers may have the legal right of way in some regions and will not necessarily be looking out for your safety. You can ask taxis drivers to slow down if they are driving over the speed limit.
6. Any destination at or above 5,000 feet can potentially cause breathing problems. Get your doctor’s advice about what to take in high-altitude regions.
7. When swimming in fresh water, rub yourself dry energetically with a towel. This will provide some protection against penetrating parasites. You can also wear water shoes.
8. Clean all minor wounds as soon as possible with soap and water