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Top Ten Guidelines for International Travel

Potential health risks when traveling outside of the U.S. are most often based upon where you’re traveling, the activities you’re in which you are participating, your state of health and your vaccination history. But international travel can be fun and completely safe if the right precautions are taken. Here are our top ten tips for staying healthy when traveling internationally:

  1. Always seek pre-travel health advice from travel medicine specialists at a travel medicine clinic before taking an international trip.
  2. Take malaria medications (if prescribed) as directed. Take the first one or two doses before leaving home so that if an adverse reaction occurs, an alternative regimen can be prescribed.
  3. Take personal precautions against insects during travel, including insect repellents and netting.
  4. Pack basic medical necessities, including a small First Aid kit, for your trip.
  5. Be prepared to purify your drinking water if bottled or boiled beverages are not available. Remember that ice cubes are a potential source of contamination as well.
  6. Take dietary precautions, including avoiding raw or uncooked foods such as salads. Avoid street vendor foods and unpasteurized dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) and choose fruits with thick skins that you can peel yourself.
  7. Wear appropriate footwear at all times to prevent infection from parasites, fungi, insect bites and other injuries.
  8. Do not swim, bathe or wade in freshwater streams, rivers or lakes in areas at high risk for schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic flatworms called schistosomes.
  9. Avoid exposure to potentially contaminated body fluids. Bring a personal supply of needles/syringes if appropriate. Do not get tattoos or piercings while traveling. Do not engage in intravenous drug use while traveling. Also, follow safe sex guidelines, ideally avoiding any intimate contact with strangers.
  10. Accidental injury due to motor vehicle transportation is a leading cause of injury and death for travelers. Avoid riding motorcycles, alcohol consumption when driving and traveling in overcrowded public vehicles. Also, whenever possible, request rental vehicles that have seatbelts.