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Travel Health - Topic Overview

How can you stay healthy on your trip?

The best way to stay healthy on your trip is to plan before you go. If you are planning to travel to another country, see a doctor several months before you leave so you will have time for vaccines (immunizations) that you may need to get ahead of time.

Also ask your doctor if there are medicines or extra safety steps that you should take. For example, if you have asthma, you may have to avoid stays in polluted cities. Or someone visiting the tropics may need to take medicine to prevent malaria.

Where can you get the best information?

You can use the Internet to find general travel health information. Just make sure that the information is up-to-date and from a reliable source. See the following websites before you travel:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/travel): This site has information on travel health and safety, required immunizations, and disease outbreaks.
  • World Health Organization (www.who.int/ith/en): You'll find information on travel, recommended immunizations, and disease outbreaks throughout the world.
  • U.S. State Department (www.usembassy.gov): This site has information on where to get the best medical care in the region you are visiting. It lists every U.S. embassy worldwide and lists some doctors and medical facilities in those countries. Take along the phone numbers and addresses of embassies in the areas you will visit.

Which immunizations and medicines will you need?

Vaccines that may be recommended include those for:

If you plan to visit an area where malaria is common, start taking medicine ahead of time to prevent malaria infection.

What precautions should you take while you travel?

Before you go, learn about the places you plan to visit. For example, find out if the water is safe to drink or if you need to worry about malaria.

Basic safety can prevent some problems:

  • Developing countries may not have safe tap water. When visiting these places, drink only beverages made with boiled water, such as tea and coffee. Canned or bottled carbonated drinks are usually a safe choice. Don't use ice if you don't know what kind of water was used to make it.
  • Do not eat raw vegetables, raw fruits, or raw or undercooked meat and seafood.
  • In malaria-infected areas, use DEET insect repellent. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially from dusk to dawn. Use mosquito netting to protect yourself from bites while you sleep.
  • Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of injury among travelers. If you drive, be sure to learn the custom and rules. If you use hired drivers (such as in a taxi), don't be afraid to ask your driver to slow down or to drive more carefully. Use seat belts if possible.
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