What is travel health?
Travel health is 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 not only for your own well-being, but for the people and communities you encounter during your trip.
Pre-trip planning: Type of travel, health status, vaccinations, and more
When you’re planning a 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 and environmental conditions, itinerary, and duration of your trip, as well as your health status. This 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.
Travel health literacy
- Find out about local health risks, current outbreaks, and advisories at your destination and learn how to prevent injuries and the spread of infectious diseases.
Country Travel Health Advice
- Research travel health insurance plans, especially if you are concerned about emergency surgery, extended hospital stays, or medical evacuation. Read the fine print to ensure that all your health needs will be covered.
Guide to Travel Health Insurance
- Enroll in a basic / advanced first aid or wilderness survival course.
- Find a reputable doctor and / or mental health practitioner at your destination. Don’t leave this until you need emergency help abroad. Knowing how to contact and locate a trusted doctor will save you time and reduce your stress.
Access IAMAT's Medical Directory
Vaccinations and medications
- Make sure your routine immunizations are up-to-date – they’re not only for children and young adults.
- Depending on your destination, you may need travel-related vaccinations. Visit your doctor or travel health clinic to set up an appointment since many vaccines come in a series. We recommend getting immunized at least 6 weeks before departure to build-up your immunity. Note that some countries require proof of vaccination against some vaccine-preventable diseases such as Yellow Fever.
Prepare a travel health kit with self-medicating items for common travel-related illnesses.
Guide to Healthy Travel
Medical exams and special needs
- Exercise and endurance train if you plan for strenuous activities during your trip. Take your level of fitness into account when planning your trip.
- Learn about the people, cultures, regional geography of the places you will visit, including some basic phrases to help you get around.
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.
Did you know?
- Influenza is present year-round in the tropics. Your health practitioner may recommend antiviral protection for your trip.
- Gastrointestinal infections due to improperly treated water and poor food handling are common illnesses among travellers and can be contracted abroad and at home.
- Traffic-related accidents are the primary cause of injury and death among travellers.
- Use ice cubes in drinks unless you are sure that the water has been disinfected.
- Consume unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
- Eat raw seafood or large fish.
- Eat food from street vendors whose stalls seem dirty or that don’t practice proper food handling and good hand hygiene. If you are going to eat street food, make sure it’s well cooked and hot.
- Feed, pet, or approach animals, especially monkeys, feral dogs, or cats.
- Swim in fresh water where Schistosomiasis or Leptospirosis is a risk.
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience the following:
- High fever (greater than 38.9°C / 102°F) lasting more than 2-3 days accompanied by shaking chills, headaches, stiff neck, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, skin rash, yellow skin or eyes, 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, rinse with disinfectant, and seek immediate medical attention.
- Injuries from motor vehicle accidents and trauma such as falling, tripping, slipping, and near-drowning.
After Your Trip
Post-trip follow-up is overlooked by many travellers, but it could prevent future health complications and even save your life.
Seek medical attention if you experience the following symptoms upon your return. Don’t forget to tell your health practitioner that you’ve travelled abroad.
- High fever (greater than 38.9°C / 102°F) - up to 3 months after coming home - accompanied by shaking chills, headaches, stiff neck, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, skin rash, yellow skin or eyes, or bloody diarrhea.
- Diarrhea and digestive problems that last more than 1 week.
- Persistent cough and shortness of breath.
- Swollen glands or skin lesions that expand and are painful.
- 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.
Last reviewed and updated: November 23, 2016