Travel Health Basics
Current, Credible Travel Health Advice to Ensure a Healthy Trip
You’ve come to the trusted source! IAMAT is the longest running provider of travel health advice and our goal is to help you plan a healthy trip with up-to-date and credible health information.
Travel health is all about prevention and common sense: Being aware of health issues that may arise and taking the appropriate measures to prevent illnesses and injuries when you are travelling. Being a responsible traveller means being prepared and doing your part to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Pre-Trip Planning: Type of Travel, Health Status, Vaccinations and More
When you are planning your trip, the last thing on your mind is getting sick away from home. To ensure a healthy trip, you'll need to determine the type of travel, geographic location, climatic conditions, duration of your trip and your health status. Knowing these factors will help you determine how far in advance you need to prepare, what immunizations and medications you will need, and what precautions you should take during your trip.
- Find out about travel health conditions and advisories at your destination and learn how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
- Research travel health insurance packages, especially if you are concerned about emergency surgery, extended hospital stays or medical evacuation. You may already be covered through your employer or credit card company. Read the fine print to ensure that all your health needs will be covered.
- Enroll in a basic / advanced first aid or wilderness survival course.
- See our NEW eLibrary to download handy travel health fact sheets.
Vaccinations and medications:
- Visit your family doctor or travel health clinic to set up a vaccination schedule. Some countries require proof of vaccination against certain vaccine preventable diseases.
- Plan your vaccination schedule. You may need to visit a travel health clinic more than once to get all your vaccinations. We recommend getting immunized 6-8 weeks before departure.
- Prepare a travel health kit with self-medicating items for common travel ailments, see our Guide to Healthy Travel. Consider packing a portable bed net and protective clothing to prevent insect bites.
Medical exams and special needs:
- Proof of a physical exam, lab tests, x-rays and other medical consultations may be required to enter some countries for extended stays, work / study permits, and climbing trips.
- Make arrangements at your destination for special needs such as oxygen devices, lab tests, dialysis, or any other medical equipment.
- Consider how travel stress including culture shock, unmet expectations, and rage can affect your trip.
- Find a mental health professional at your destination that speaks your language in case of an emergency.
- See My Peace of Mind... Travel and Mental Health series for tips on:
- Coping with travel stress
- Staying healthy as a traveller with no prior history of mental illness
- Travelling with medications
- Travelling with depression, bipolar disorder, substance dependence, anxiety, and psychosis.
- Exercise and endurance train if you plan for strenuous activities during your trip.
- Learn about the people, cultures, regional geography, and languages of the places you will visit.
Staying Healthy During Your Trip
First and foremost, enjoy your trip! Don't let all the travel health precautions discourage you. Using common sense with prevention in mind is key to a healthy and safe trip.
- Drink boiled or bottled water, or use water purifiers / tablets.
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with water and soap or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer, especially before handling food.
- Eat thick skinned fruit that you can peel yourself, such as oranges and bananas.
- Eat well cooked food while it's hot.
- Use anti-mosquito measures, including sprays or lotions containing DEET.
- Wear seat belts in vehicles and a helmet when riding a bicycle, moped, or motorcycle.
- Stay fit and be well rested.
- Ice cubes in drinks.
- Unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
- Shellfish and large fish.
- Food from street vendors.
- Excessive sun exposure.
- Contact with animals and insect bites.
- Swimming in fresh water.
- Unprotected sexual contact.
The most common travel related illnesses are gastro-intestinal infections mainly due to untreated water and poorly prepared food, a common occurrence in all countries.
If you experience the following, visit a health care professional immediately:
- High fever (greater than 38.9°C / 102°F) accompanied by shaking chills, headaches, stiff neck, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, skin rash, yellow skin or eyes and / or bloody diarrhea.
- Breathing difficulties and / or numbness and tingling in the extremities and around the mouth.
- Animal bites from dogs, monkeys, bats, and other potentially rabid animals. Thoroughly clean with water and soap, and seek immediate medical attention.
- Injuries from motor vehicle accidents and trauma such as falling, tripping, slipping, and near drowning.
Post-trip follow-up is usually overlooked by many travellers, but it could prevent future health complications and even save your life.
A visit to your health care provider is needed if you experience the following symptoms upon your return:
- High fever (greater than 38.9°C / 102°F) - up to three weeks after coming home - accompanied by shaking chills, headaches, stiff neck, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, skin rash, yellow skin or eyes and / or bloody diarrhea.
- Diarrhea and digestive problems that last more than one week.
- Persistent cough and shortness of breath.
- Swollen glands or skin lesions that enlarge, are painful or ulcerate.
- If you were bitten by an animal, report it to your health care provider even if you received treatment abroad in case further medical attention is recommended.
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