Summer Travel Health Advice
Use soap, water, and a dash of common sense.
Drink and Eat Sensibly continued...
- Drink only bottled or boiled water.
- Eat well cooked, rather than raw or undercooked meat and seafood.
- Avoid any foods or beverages purchased from street vendors or establishments with unhygienic conditions.
- Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables unless you peel them yourself.
- Don't put ice in your drinks.
But no matter how closely you follow this advice, you may still come down with travelers' diarrhea, says Shlim, who believes restaurant food preparation is the culprit. "Some restaurants may use the same cutting board for raw vegetables and meat, for example. Or they may rinse vegetables in dirty tap water."
His advice: Eat only freshly served foods that were cooked at high heat. "Lasagna and casseroles are risky because they are often cooked earlier, leaving plenty of time for organisms to grow."
Shlim also advises going to a doctor in advance of your trip and asking him or her for a course of antibiotics. Taken as soon as diarrhea strikes, the drugs can usually shorten the illness from several days to several hours.
Move Around, Drink Plenty of Fluids
Sitting in a cramped position for long periods -- whether in an airplane, car, or a bus -- can lead to an increased risk of potentially deadly blood clots, warns Wolfgang Schobersberger, MD, professor of intensive care medicine at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
To minimize risk, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and frequently move your legs, he says. Taking frequent, deep breaths can also improve circulation.
Those at moderate risk should also wear compression stockings, sometimes called support hose, he says. And those at high risk should ask their doctor about an injection of heparin immediately before the trip, which will provide protection for about 12 hours, he says.
Your risk for blood clots increases if you are age 60 or older, have heart disease, a family history of blood clots, varicose veins, obesity, cancer, are pregnant or recently had a baby, or have had recent surgery.
Don't Get Bitten
Mosquitoes are not just pesky pests: They can carry West Nile disease, dengue fever, even malaria. Ticks spread Lyme disease. But a few simple precautions can minimize your risk of getting bitten this summer, the experts say.
Among their travel health advice:
- Stay indoors at dawn and dusk and in the evening, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats. Shirts should be tucked in.
- Tuck your pants into your socks and wear boots, not sandals.
- Inspect yourself and your clothing for ticks, both during outdoor activity and at the end of the day. Prompt removal of attached ticks can prevent some infections.
- Consider using an insect repellent: Most experts recommend repellents containing DEET on skin and permethrin-containing repellents on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear. But these ingredients can be toxic, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully.