5 Health Essentials To Keep In Mind When Traveling
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, international travel plunged 72% three years ago due to the pandemic and its impact on world travel. However, the numbers shot up again by the end of 2022, with people resuming travel activities. Meanwhile, further research has already reported that an estimated 1.4 billion international travelers cross borders annually. Indeed, with travel comes the potential for exposure to new and unfamiliar health risks, explaining why you must protect your health before, during, and after travel. Here are some essential health steps to take to make your trip successful.
Vaccinations are an important aspect of travel health. They can protect you from serious and potentially life-threatening diseases more common in certain parts of the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers consult a healthcare provider or travel medicine specialist at least four to six weeks before departure. This step determines which vaccinations are needed based on the destination, length of stay, and individual health considerations. Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are recommended for individuals traveling to areas with high infection rates, including parts of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Another jab worth considering is Yellow fever, which is required for entry into Africa and South America. The flu shot is also necessary. Meanwhile, with high malaria transmission rates in sub-Saharan Africa, the CDC advises travelers to protect themselves primarily with preventive medications. And this leads to the next point.
- Preventive medications
As mentioned previously, preventive medications may be needed, especially when vaccinations are unavailable. A typical example is Malaria which travelers may require antimalarial drugs when going to high transmission areas. It is recommended to avoid taking an antimalarial drug until you have the go-ahead from an experienced physician. Other medications you might be on may make it counterproductive to take an antimalarial drug. You may also need preventive medications to reduce the risk of certain health problems in high-risk groups. For example, children and persons with compromised immune systems may need prophylactic antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections. Meanwhile, for people with altitude sickness, certain preventive medications like acetazolamide can ensure you enjoy your flight. Have you heard about travelers’ diarrhea? If not, do make an effort to see a GP before jetting to other parts of the world.
- Emergency planning
No matter how well-prepared you are, unexpected health problems can still occur while traveling. That is why experienced travelers recommend putting a plan in place in an emergency. For example, international travel insurance before departing is recommended to cover the cost of medical care and evacuation in an emergency. It will be easy to access medical transport companies like Jet Companion if your health takes a turn on a trip. Furthermore, it helps to have emergency contact information details on your phone or wallet. That should include the contact information of your primary healthcare provider and the nearest embassy or consulate. It would help if you added the contact numbers of emergency medical services in the area you are visiting or traveling to. Apart from the contact numbers of the medical service, it is highly recommended to know the actual location of these places in the first few days of arriving at a new destination.
- Pre-travel consultation
It is important to schedule a pre-travel consultation with a healthcare provider or travel medicine specialist before embarking on any international trip. This consultation should ideally take place 4-6 weeks before departure. It provides ample time for any preventive shots to take effect and provide full protection before you leave. During the consultation, your healthcare provider will assess your health status and discuss the destination, length of stay, and planned activities. Travelers with specific health conditions such as pregnancy, chronic illnesses, or disabilities may require additional precautions and planning. Discussing your condition with a healthcare provider or travel medicine specialist is important. Remember to keep a letter from your doctor outlining your condition and any necessary medications or treatments. It would also help to take along any vital medical records. This way, you can easily provide your health information in an emergency.
- Food and water safety
Travelers are at risk of food and water-borne illnesses, such as traveler’s diarrhea, caused by consuming contaminated food or water. It is important to take safe food and water precautions while traveling to reduce the risk of infection. Some tips for food safety include avoiding raw or undercooked food, especially meat, seafood, and eggs. Eating only at reputable establishments and avoiding street vendors or food from open-air markets will be safer. Also, ensure that the food you consume is cooked and served hot.
Regarding water safety, it would help to avoid tap water, ice cubes, and drinks with ice unless you know they were made with purified water. Also, drink bottled mineral water that has been properly sealed. Sometimes, you may need to use water purification tablets if you are unsure of the quality of the water. Lastly, be mindful of the water you use to brush your teeth. If you doubt the quality, your best bet is to use bottled water.