Be Prepared for Health Issues During Travel
Health needs or concerns may arise at any time when you travel internationally during a business trip or vacation. While consultations with specialists at University Hospitals Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health are generally not needed during a trip, our specialists are available if necessary.
If travelers have any questions or concerns at any point during short- or longer-term trips, they can call our office during business hours (9 a.m. – 5 p.m. U.S. Eastern time) at 216-844-1709. All phone inquiries will be returned by an infectious disease expert within two business days.
We also provide comprehensive online resources to assist with detailed information as questions arise during your trip.
Should your health concerns require immediate assistance, please go to the nearest emergency room.
Prevention While Traveling
In addition to getting all the required and recommended vaccinations before traveling, there are additional thing you can do while on your trip that can help prevent problems from arising.
Despite precautions with water and food, as many as 40 percent of travelers will experience a mild but unpleasant bout of diarrhea. This usually lasts from three to five days and is associated with cramps, bloating, and nausea. Travelers’ diarrhea can be prevented by taking two tablets of Pepto Bismol four times a day while overseas, but this can be expensive and difficult to remember. For longer excursions, early treatment of diarrhea with an antibiotic and an anti-motility drug such as Imodium, will shorten the course to less than two hours in many cases. If you have a fever of over 101F, blood or mucus in the stool, or diarrhea that lasts longer than five days, it is not simple travelers’ diarrhea, and you should consult a physician.
Food and Water Hazards
You must assume that all water in developing countries is unsafe. Safe water can be purchased or made by boiling local water for at least one minute. Bear, wine, soda, hot tea, and coffee are all safe. The three most common mistakes which lead to drinking contaminated water are brushing your teeth with water from the tap, using ice (freezing does not sterilize water), or failing to break the seal yourself on bottled water. It is a common practice to refill old plastic water bottles and resell them to tourists.
Milk is not pasteurized, and meat is not inspected in many developing countries. You should avoid all dairy products unless you are sure they are pasteurized. All meat should be eaten well-done. Fresh salads are a major source of contamination and should be avoided. Vegetables are safe when cooked, and fruit that can be peeled like bananas and oranges are safe. Vendor food and airplane food (prepared locally for return trips) are other high-risk foods.