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Traveling Internationally Safely

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Zika virus has recently been all over every news/media outlet in the country. Many travel agencies and cruise lines have even begun offering refunds for individuals who planned on traveling to countries that have been listed as being most affected. Not too long ago, the world was abuzz with the concerns of Ebola and before that, many other exotic illnesses have caused concerns. While some recreational trips may be easy to reschedule or postpone until the scare is over, there are often other reasons we need to travel that can’t be canceled. The CDC and World Health Organization have put together several lists and recommended guidelines that individuals can abide by when traveling to try and ensure a safe time.

Before you depart: Make sure to allow enough time to plan ahead! Research the country you are traveling to and see if there are any specific immunizations or vaccinations required or recommended. If there are, go get them as soon as possible. Some immunizations take several weeks to reach their highest protection.

Be sure to visit your doctor for a checkup at least 4 to 6 weeks before you depart. Have a thorough checkup with your primary care physician and even your dentist and optometrist. This will help to find any issues that you may have and get you on new medications if you need them. This is also a great time to address any concerns with your doctor and also to get his/her recommendations.

If you have health insurance, find out if your provider will cover any costs that may occur where you are traveling to. Have a backup plan just in case they do not. Be sure to take plenty of your regular medications in their original containers. Speak with your doctor about getting an extra prescription or two so you can fill your medications if something happens to your originals.

If you have a severe medical condition, check into medical alert jewelry that is easily seen by anyone who may need to treat you in case of an emergency.

Check out the CDC’s website for recommendations about the area you are visiting as well as important health related alerts. The government even offers a Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which is a free service allowing US citizens to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the region where they are traveling. This service helps the U.S. Embassy contact you in case of an emergency and also provides you with other important safety related information.

While you’re there: Be sure to take your medications daily just as you would if you were at home. If you are going to be out and about, be sure to pack enough medications to get you through the day.

If you have medical alert jewelry, be sure to carry/wear it at all times. If you are in a country that you may have a language barrier with, that jewelry can be especially live saving!

Be careful if swimming or coming in contact with freshwater lakes. Various bacteria thrive in warm water conditions and can be easily picked up by you. Try and shower with a clean water supply as often as possible or soon after coming in contact with any freshwater.

Follow all safety rules set by the government. They are in place for a reason!

Eat carefully. If you are not accustomed to eating a certain type food, ease into it carefully. Well cooked, hot food is usually the safest thing to eat.

If the area you are visiting has an increased risk of mosquito borne illnesses, be sure to purchase plenty of anti-bug spray. Brands that have DEET in the ingredient list tend to be the strongest. Use bed nets while sleeping to help keep mosquitoes away overnight.

When you return: Go back to your doctor within a week or so of return for another checkup. If you feel ill at all, get in with them as soon as possible. Some doctor’s may have a survey about your trip that they will want you to complete so they can better assess any health risks/concerns.

Launder all your clothes well. If you traveled with it and you can easily sanitize it – do so! This might not prohibit you coming down with a sickness you contracted while traveling but it may help to stop the spread of anything.

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