There’s nothing worse than planning an exciting trip outside the country and getting sick. Even 1 day in bed can make you feel like you’re missing out on wonderful sights and adventures. I want to give you some pre-travel tips to make your vacation fun, safe and memorable (in a good way!).
There are mainly 3 main categories to remember: Water, Food and Insect Prevention
1. When traveling to developing countries, you need to consider community access to clean water, toilet facilities, plumbing and reliable refrigeration. If you are staying in a hotel and eating at restaurants, concerns of cholera or food-bourne illness is not as much a risk as staying in rural villages or camping. Although eating buffet-style foods and drinking tap water (in mixed drinks or ice) even from hotel sinks and showers in Central or South America, Asia, the Middle East, Mexico or Africa would be considered high risk destinations for food-bourne illness. Lower risk areas include the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Northern and Western Europe.
2. High-risk foods include those served moist or at room temperature, unpeeled raw fruits and veges, salads, berries, unpasteurized dairy, and undercooked meat or seafood. Also, avoid reconstituted juices, and any food prepared or served by a street vendor! A common phrase that you should keep in mind is, “boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it”. Its also best to avoid non potable water which can be found as tap water, fountain drinks, beer and soda on tap. Since washing your hands with tap water can be questionable in some areas, use hand sanitizer (>60% alcohol) before meals and when handling food.
I always recommend taking a non-refrigerated probiotic with you on your trip. The brand called Culturelle supplies a high dose of Lactobaccillus GG which is taken just once daily. Talk to your doctor or health practitioner about prescribing an antibiotic for traveler’s diarrhea. One such medication is called Xifaxan which is absorbed from the intestine and treats intestinal infections very well with few side effects (1% headache or nausea). The other popular antibiotic is Ciprofloxacin, also known as Cipro. This medication treats uncomplicated travelers diarrhea well, although has become resistant in regions of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.
3. Insect protection is important since so many diseases are vector-borne. These types of diseases can cause infections that result in more than 1,000,000 deaths annually. Although vaccinations exist for some vector-bourne diseases such as Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis, many diseases have none. The prevention of these vector-borne diseases includes covering up from head-to-toe ( long sleeve woven shirts, long pants, and hats) when outside at dusk and dawn. In addition to consistent insecticide and repellant use on the skin, you can also wear clothing treated with permethrin repellant as well as permethrin-treated mosquito netting if sleeping outdoors. Even if you are “naturally minded,” preventing bites form mosquitoes, ticks, fleas that carry disease is well worth using a really good insect repellant. For younger children (and very sensitive adults), Wishgarden Herbs offers a catnip and soybean oil base insect repellent that when tested head-to-head with DEET, was found to be 10X more effective. It’s important to apply it frequently. Be sure to take malaria prevention medicines if you are traveling to an area that has malaria.
Immunizations are important so make sure you are up-to-date with Tetanus if it’s been more than 10 years. Hepatitis A and Typhoid are important to prevent food borne illnesses. Other vaccines may be important depending on your destination, but make sure you get them 4 weeks prior to travel to be fully effective.
For up-to-date travel information visit cdc.gov/travel. Happy trails!