Before You Go
Proper planning is the best way to stay healthy during your trip. This takes time. You'll want to gather both travel and health information, and think about your special needs.
See a doctor at least 6 weeks before you go so you'll have time to get vaccines or make other health preparations.
To get started
- Think about the type of shape you're in. Most travel, even if you are going on a guided tour, typically demands more physical effort than is required at home. Boost your fitness by starting an exercise program, such as Reference fitness walking, in advance.
- Make a Reference first aid kit with items such as pain relievers, sunscreen, insect repellent, moleskin, antifungal and antibacterial ointments, and antidiarrheal medicines.
- If you have health insurance, find out how your insurance works outside of the United States. If your insurance company doesn't cover you in other countries, you may want to think about buying travel health insurance. Use the Internet to search for "travel insurance compare" to get websites that help you compare types of travel insurance.
Get the information you need
You can use the Internet to find general travel health information. Just make sure the information is up-to-date and from a reliable source. See the following websites before you travel:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/travel): This site has information on travel health and safety, required immunizations, and disease outbreaks.
- World Health Organization (www.who.int/ith/en): You'll find information on travel, recommended immunizations, and disease outbreaks throughout the world.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program (www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp): This site contains information from the CDC about cruise ship sanitation inspection scores.
- U.S. State Department (www.usembassy.gov): Information on where to get the best medical care in the region you are visiting. It lists every U.S. embassy worldwide and lists some doctors and medical facilities in those countries. Take along the phone numbers and addresses of embassies in the areas you will visit.
Get needed vaccines and medicines
Check with the nearest travel health clinic, your regional health department, your doctor, or one of the websites listed above to see what kind of vaccines you should get. In the United States, most state health clinics can give you travel vaccines, some medicines, and healthy travel tips.
See your doctor or go to a clinic as soon as you can, or at least 6 weeks before traveling. Some vaccines need to be given in more than one dose, and you may need more than 6 weeks to get protection. You may need vaccines to protect against:
- Childhood infections, if they aren't up-to-date for you and your children. This includes shots for Reference polio Opens New Window, Reference diphtheria Opens New Window, Reference measles Opens New Window, Reference whooping cough Opens New Window, and Reference rubella Opens New Window.
- Reference Tetanus Opens New Window, if you haven't received one in the last 10 years.
- Reference Hepatitis A, if you are going to developing countries where the disease is common. The vaccine (What is a Reference PDF Opens New Window document?) is given as two shots. The first hepatitis A shot usually works in about 4 weeks. It protects most people from getting hepatitis A. The second shot is given at least 6 months after the first shot and provides lasting protection.
- Reference Yellow fever Opens New Window. This vaccine is now required for travelers who plan to visit countries in South America and Africa where the disease is active.
- The Reference flu Opens New Window or complications of pneumonia.
- Reference Typhoid fever Opens New Window, especially if you are traveling to an area where the risk of typhoid fever is high. These areas include Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Your doctor, health clinic, or health department will have the most recent recommendations.
More immunizations may be needed depending on the area you are visiting, how long you will be there, and the purpose of your journey. For example, if you will be trekking in rural Asia for a month or longer, you may need a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis (What is a Reference PDF Opens New Window document?).Reference 1
A vaccine for traveler's diarrhea and Reference cholera Opens New Window, called Dukoral, has been approved in Canada and Europe. But it is not available in the United States.
To learn more, see the topic Reference Immunizations.
Ask about a prescription for antimalarial drugs if you will be visiting an area that has Reference malaria Opens New Window. This includes large areas of Central and South America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and many South Pacific islands.
You may need to take one of several different preventive medicines, depending on the type of malaria parasite in that part of the world. These medicines need to be taken daily during your travels and for a specified time after you return. It is important to take all the tablets you were given. This may mean taking antimalarial tablets for several weeks after you get home.
Personal health needs
If you have any chronic diseases or other health concerns, such as birth control or allergies, see your doctor. You may need to take other steps or make adjustments in your travel plans.
- Carry a letter from your doctor describing your conditions, a list of your routine medicines including their generic names, and written prescriptions for refills if you will be gone long.
- Leave your prescription medicines in the original containers—your name must match the name on the bottle—and pack them in a waterproof container in your carry-on luggage. Take extra amounts of your routine medicines packed in checked luggage in case of theft or loss.
- If you have a heart condition, travel with a copy of your most recent Reference electrocardiogram Opens New Window (EKG, ECG) for comparison in case you have chest pain or other symptoms.
- If you have diabetes, you can take Reference precautions to prevent problems while traveling. For example, wear a medical identification tag and take extra medicine with you..
- If you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or other lung diseases, you may need to avoid stays in polluted cities or at high altitudes.
- If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before making any travel decisions. If you decide to travel, take some Reference general precautions while traveling, such as notifying the airline of your condition before you fly and taking a few walks while on a long flight to increase the blood circulation in your legs. (This is good advice for all travelers.)
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference August 7, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease