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Travel Health - Precautions Along the Way

Sun and heat exposure

Many travelers underestimate the sun's strength and overestimate the amount of protection their sunscreen offers. This can add up to at least an uncomfortable sunburn and, at worst, life-threatening heatstroke.

Steps you can take to protect yourself from the sun include using sunscreen, wearing a hat, and drinking plenty of fluids.

Injuries

Although disease is a big risk while you are traveling, you should also be aware of the risk of injury.

  • Motor vehicle accidents. They are a leading cause of injury among travelers. Bad roads, poor driver training, and crowded roadways can make driving dangerous in other countries.
    • Learn local driving customs and road signs.
    • Try to travel during daylight.
    • Always use seat belts.
    • Ask taxi drivers or other hired drivers to slow down or drive more carefully if you feel unsafe.
    • Wear helmets and protective clothing when riding motorcycles or bicycles.
  • Animal bites. Take care around dogs and other animals. Dogs in developing countries may bite, and rabies is a concern. If you are bitten by an animal, wash the bite with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Wounds. Most wounds sustained in developing countries carry a higher risk of becoming infected. If you get even a minor wound, clean it as soon as possible with large amounts of warm water and soap. Apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

If you haven't had a tetanus shot in 10 years, you should get a booster dose before you leave on your trip. But if you don't get a tetanus shot before you leave, you should get one after an animal bite or an injury that results in a break in the skin.

Altitude

Altitude sickness happens when you can't get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes. This causes symptoms such as a headache and loss of appetite. The best treatment for altitude sickness is to go to a lower altitude. But if you have mild symptoms, you may be able to stay at the higher altitude and let your body get used to it.

Steps to prevent altitude sickness include eating breads, grains, and pasta and not flying directly from low altitudes to high altitudes. You may also be able to take medicine to prevent altitude sickness.

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