What are the most common health and safety issues for travelers?
The safety and health issues travelers encounter change with the destination, but some issues are universal. Overseas travelers should be prepared for much of the same injuries and exposures faced at home: mosquito and other bug bites, food borne illnesses like diarrhea and gastritis, and motor vehicle accidents (which are the most common cause of death and injury overseas). Some travel destinations and even types of travel have unique risks, including environmental disasters like volcanos or earthquakes, diarrheal illnesses on cruise ships, and Deep Vein thrombosis on long plane or car trips. The good news is, most of these health and safety issues can be prevented or minimized with some education and planning ahead!
Can my doctor help me prepare to stay healthy overseas?
Yes! You can schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss where you are going and what steps you can take to prevent infection. You can find the recommended immunizations for the area, get information about preventing the most common infectious diseases from mosquito-borne illnesses to typhoid, and make sure you have enough of your prescription medications for your trip. Plan this visit well before your trip as some vaccines need to be started 6 weeks before you arrive. Your doctor can also tell you if your trip includes regions where malaria transmission occurs and get you the medications that will prevent infection. You don’t want to be one of the 1,700 US travelers who get malaria every year! Doctors can also help you decide if medical evacuation insurance is appropriate due to both your destination and your medical conditions.
What can I do from home to stay healthy on my trip?
A reliable travel guide specific to the destination (like DK or Lonely Planet) will have health and safety tips, and if you are traveling with a tour company or travel agent, they will likely have resources as well. You can always get trustworthy and up to date information about health and safety while traveling at the CDC’s Traveler’s Information Center at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/traveler-information-center. There you can customize information based on where you are going, what kind of trip you are taking, and what kind of traveler you are (including pregnant, with small children, or if you have chronic medical conditions).
Lt. Gillian Wackowski, D.O., is a Naval Hospital Lemoore Medical Homeport physician. She is a Family Medicine Doctor on Medical Homeport Gold Team and sees patients of all ages.