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Vaccines Health Center

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Travel Health - Topic Overview

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.

What if you get sick while you are traveling?

If you become seriously ill while traveling, your country's embassy or consulate can help you find medical care. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in malaria-risk areas, get medical help right away.

Diarrhea is the most common illness to strike travelers. Most cases of traveler's diarrhea get better in 1 to 3 days without treatment. But see a doctor if diarrhea lasts longer than 7 days, or if you have a high fever, blood or mucus in your diarrhea, or signs of dehydration.

Should you see a doctor when you return?

If you were healthy during your trip and you feel well when you return home, you probably don't need to see a doctor.

See your doctor when you get home if either of the following occurs:

  • You were sick with a fever or severe flu-like illness while traveling.
  • You develop these symptoms within 6 months of coming home.

Tell your doctor the places you visited and whether you think you may have gotten a disease. Many diseases don't show up right away. And some can take weeks or months to develop.

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