Travel medicine is an important topic that is often overlooked or misunderstood. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, any international journey should be planned with your health taken into consideration. When you’re in unfamiliar places, far from the comforts of home or your regular physician, it’s always wise to have prepared for the trip with a comprehensive travel medicine plan. Check out these tips below to make sure you’re ready.
Travel Medicine Action Steps Checklist
- See your doctor before you travel. You may require vaccinations, whether routine or specific to the region where you are traveling. Your doctor will be able to assess if you need any vaccinations for safe travel to your destinations. If you have been ill recently, your physician can also determine whether you are well enough to travel and which precautions to take. Additionally, seeing a doctor can be important in case you have a preexisting medical condition and need to incorporate it into travel insurance coverage before embarking on your journey.
- Assess your overall health. Consider any recent illnesses, injuries, or surgeries you’ve had, and determine whether you are currently well enough to travel. Do you have any specific health needs that may require special attention in the context of travel? Are you pregnant or planning to make the trip with an infant or child whose own needs (such as an inhaler for asthma) are relevant to an international travel plan?
- Research your destination. Learn about the place where you’re going and any associated health risks. For more information, check out the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and their destination page.
- Check for Travel Health Notices. The CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) regularly post and update destination-specific travel notices and warnings on their websites. It is wise to be aware of any health or weather alerts before you leave. Some areas are more prone to extreme weather or natural disasters or may be experiencing an illness outbreak, so be sure to check. Refer to the CDC’s Natural Disasters and Severe Weather Page for more information.
- Pack smart. In addition to your other essentials, be sure to include a travel health kit for your carry-on luggage. Include prescribed and over-the-counter medications you can’t do without, as well as copies of your prescriptions and the drugs’ generic names. You will need a note on letterhead stationery from your prescribing physician for all drugs and injectable medications, and you should leave an extra copy at home with someone you can reach. Be sure to check with the American embassy or consulate in your to ensure your specific medications are permitted entry into the country. Also, pack a first aid kit, sunscreen, and any over health-related products you may need.
- Purchase travel medical insurance. Unpredictable illnesses and accidents can happen while traveling, and the amount of travel coverage provided by your domestic insurance provider may be limited or non-existent. Depending on where you are traveling, foreign visitors without travel health insurance may have to pay out of pocket for any medical care required. Those costs can be considerable, especially if you sustain serious injury or illness. Make sure you and your family are covered.
- Take care of your health during your trip. Some travel medicine simply comes down to using common sense and acting even more cautiously than you might at home. Use sunscreen and insect repellent when necessary. Be careful to get food and water from clean sources. Don’t overindulge in alcohol. Be sure to wear your seatbelt when in a car and protective equipment when enjoying adventure activities. Always respect your host country’s local laws, customs, and etiquette. In essence, limit opportunities for threats to your health or wellbeing.
- Pay attention to your health when you get home. If you begin feeling ill upon your return, monitor your symptoms carefully and see your doctor.
Whether you are traveling abroad for the first time or regularly jet around the globe, remember to attend to your travel medicine needs before you embark on your journey. Your trip will be all the more enjoyable (and safe) if you are informed, protected, and well prepared before you leave home.