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Travel Health - Precautions Along the Way

Traveling comes with a whole new set of things to think about. The following can help you stay healthy and enjoy your trip as much as possible.

Tips for flying

Flying isn't always fun. But you can take steps to make it easier and to feel better during and after your flight.

  • Pack anything that may cause problems at security—such as gels, liquids, sharp scissors, or pocket knives—in the luggage you plan to check. For an updated list of what isn't allowed in carry-on luggage, see the Transportation Security Administration website at
  • Wear roomy, comfortable shoes that slip on and off. These are easy to remove when you go through security at the airport. They will also be more comfortable if your feet swell on the plane.
  • Walk around the plane during flights to prevent dangerous blood clots during long periods of travel. Sitting still for 4 hours or more slows down the blood flow in your legs and raises your blood clot risk.
  • Take steps to prevent jet lag, such as drinking plenty of liquids and changing your sleep schedule to the new time zone.
    actionset.gif Sleep Problems: Dealing With Jet Lag

If you have a fear of flying, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend medicines, hypnosis, or breathing, visualization, and relaxation exercises to help you feel less afraid.

Water and food safety

Contaminated water and food are the most common cause of illness in travelers.

Drinking water

  • Don't drink tap water if it may not have been properly treated.
  • Don't brush your teeth with tap water.
  • Drink beverages made with boiled water, such as tea and coffee. Canned or bottled carbonated beverages (including bottled water and soft drinks), beer, and wine are also usually safe.
  • Don't accept ice in drinks. It may be contaminated.
  • Dry the opening of wet cans or bottles before taking a drink.

Travelers to backcountry areas of North America should also take precautions with water. Even though the water in high mountain lakes looks sparkling clear, it may be contaminated with Giardia intestinalis, the parasite that causes giardiasis. Take simple precautions to avoid this illness, such as boiling the water.


  • Avoid raw fruits (unless you wash and peel them yourself), raw vegetables, and raw or undercooked meat and seafood.
  • Try to eat steaming hot, well-cooked food.
  • Don't get foods or drinks from street vendors.
  • Make sure dairy products have been pasteurized.

To learn more, see the topic Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling.

Swimming and water sports

Swimming in contaminated fresh water, such as ponds or rivers, can expose you to diseases. Even swimming pools with inadequate chlorination pose a risk. Talk to your doctor if you plan on doing recreational water sports—such as white-water rafting, adventure racing, or kayaking—in tropical and backcountry regions.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 27, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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