Food and Water Safety
Unclean water can also make you sick if you swallow or inhale it while bathing, showering, or swimming. Try not to get any water in your nose or mouth. In some areas, tap water may not even be safe for brushing your teeth, and you should use bottled water. People who are elderly or have weakened immune systems might want to stay away from areas where there is a lot of steam and water vapor that can be inhaled, such as showers and hot tubs
Avoid Bug Bites
Bugs (including mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies) can spread a number of diseases. Many of these diseases cannot be prevented with a vaccine or medicine. You can reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites.
What type of insect repellent should I use?
What can I do to avoid bed bugs?
Although bed bugs do not carry disease, they are an annoyance. Take the following precautions to avoid them:
International Road Safety
Follow these tips to minimize your risk of being injured in a car crash while you're on vacation.
Most people think about travel vaccines when they're planning an international trip, but few people consider the possibility that they might be involved in a car crash. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among healthy travelers, and no vaccine can prevent a car wreck. Fortunately, a little bit of knowledge and awareness can go a long way toward keeping you safe.
Just the Stats
Each year, 1.3 million people are killed and 20–50 million are injured in motor vehicle crashes worldwide. Most (85%) of these casualties occur in low- or middle-income countries, and 25,000 of the deaths are among tourists. Nearly half of medical evacuations back to the United States are the result of a car crash, and a medical evacuation can cost upward of $100,000.
Why Are Car Crashes a Risk for Travelers?
More and more people are driving cars and riding motorcycles in developing countries, and these countries are an increasingly common destination for US tourists. Roads in these countries may be poorly maintained, and traffic laws may be haphazardly followed or enforced. A crash in a developing country is more likely to be fatal because emergency care may not be readily available. It may take a long time to get to a center that can provide appropriate care, and care, where available, may not be up to US standards.
Tourists may get behind the wheel in a foreign country without being adequately informed of local traffic laws, they may not be accustomed to driving on the left, or they may be driving vehicles (such as rented motorcycles or scooters) that they do not know how to properly operate. In addition, the excitement of being on vacation may encourage travelers to engage in risky behaviors, such as drinking and driving, that they would never do at home.
What Can I Do to Avoid a Crash?
Take the following steps to minimize your risk of being injured in a crash while you're on vacation:
Following these tips is the best way you can keep from getting in a motor vehicle crash and ensure a safe and healthy vacation. (But don't forget your travel vaccines, either!)
Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness. It can occur anywhere, but the highest-risk destinations are in most of Asia (except for Japan) as well as the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America.
In otherwise healthy adults, diarrhea is rarely serious or life-threatening, but it can certainly make for an unpleasant trip. Take steps to avoid diarrhea when you travel.
Eat & Drink Safely
Choose foods and beverages carefully to lower your risk of diarrhea (see Food & Water Safety). Eat only food that is cooked and served hot. (Avoid, for example, food that has been sitting on a buffet.) Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you have washed them in clean water or peeled them. Drink only beverages from factory-sealed containers, and avoid ice (because it may have been made from unclean water).
Keep Your Hands Clean
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and before eating. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. In general, it’s a good idea to keep your hands away from your mouth.
People with diarrhea should drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated. This is especially important for young children or adults with chronic illnesses. In serious cases of travelers’ diarrhea, oral rehydration solution—available online or in pharmacies in developing countries—can be used for fluid replacement.
Many travelers carry antibiotics with them so they can treat diarrhea early if they start to get sick. The choice of antibiotics varies depending on the destination. Ask your doctor if you should take an antibiotic on your trip.
Several drugs, such as Lomotil or Imodium, can be bought over-the-counter to treat the symptoms of diarrhea. These drugs decrease the frequency and urgency of needing to use the bathroom, and they may make it easier for a person with diarrhea to ride on a bus or airplane while waiting for an antibiotic to take effect.
Travelers who are camping, hiking, or staying in remote areas may need to disinfect their drinking water. Several methods can be used.
Most germs die quickly at high temperatures. Water that has been boiled for 1 minute is safe to drink after it has cooled. If no other method of water disinfection is available, very hot tap water may be safe to drink if it has been in the tank for a while.
A variety of filters are available from camping stores. Most have filter sizes between 0.1 and 0.4 microns, which will remove bacteria from water but will not remove viruses. New “hollow fiber” technology can remove viruses as well. “Reverse osmosis” filters remove bacteria and viruses and can also remove salt from water, which is important for ocean voyagers.
Tablets or packets of powder can be bought at camping stores to disinfect water. These usually combine chemical disinfectants (such as chlorine or iodine) with a substance that makes the water clear and improves its taste. Follow the instructions on the package closely—you may need to wait several hours until all the germs are killed.
Ultraviolet (UV) Light
Portable units that deliver a measured dose of UV light are an effective way to disinfect small quantities of clear water. However, this technique is less effective in cloudy water since germs may be shielded from the light by small particles.
In an emergency situation, water can be disinfected with sunlight. Water in a clear plastic bottle, preferably lying on a reflective surface (such as aluminum foil), will be safe to drink after a minimum of 6 hours in bright sunlight. This technique does not work on cloudy water.
Travelers spending time outdoors are exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, even on cloudy days. Travelers are at increased risk when traveling near the equator, during summer months, and at high altitudes. Reflection from the snow, sand, and water increases exposure, so consider sun safety during outdoor activities, including snow skiing, spending time at the beach, swimming, and sailing.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
Treating a Sunburn
Take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve pain, headache, and fever. Drink plenty of water, and soothe burns with cool baths or by gently applying cool, wet cloths.
Use a topical moisturizing cream or aloe to provide additional relief. Don’t go back into the sun until the burn has healed.
If skin blisters, lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection. Don’t break blisters (this slows healing and increases risk of infection). Apply antiseptic ointment if blisters break.
Seek medical attention if any of the following occurs:
Travelers who have casual sex are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Prevent STDs when you travel overseas.
An estimated 20% of travelers say that they have had casual sex with a new partner while in a foreign country.1 The excitement of being on vacation may encourage people to do things they would not do at home, and the inhibition-lowering effects of drugs and alcohol can also contribute to this behaviorExternal Web Site Icon. Travelers who have casual sex, whether vaginal, anal, or oral sex, are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV, herpes, and gonorrhea. Many STDs are treatable, but preventing an STD is always best.
What can I do to prevent an STD?
The most reliable way to prevent an STD is to not have sex, including oral sex. However, you can take other steps to protect yourself:
What are the symptoms of an STD?
The symptoms of an STD are different depending on the infection. In fact, many STDs don’t cause any symptoms at all. If you have had unprotected sex, talk to your doctor about getting tested for STDs. Make sure to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor about your sexual history so he or she can determine the appropriate STD test(s) for you. Although most STDs don’t show signs or symptoms, some possible signs of an STD include the following:
What do I do if I think I have an STD?
Treating STDs early is important to prevent more serious and long-term complications. If you think you have an STD:
Although they are rare, natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, tornadoes, or earthquakes could occur while you are on a trip. Natural disasters can seriously injure large numbers of people, contribute to the spread of some diseases, disrupt sanitation, and interrupt normal public services. Travelers should be familiar with risks for natural disasters at their destination and local warning systems, evacuation routes, and shelters.
If a Natural Disaster Occurs
Parents traveling overseas with children should know health risks and how to avoid them.
An estimated 1.9 million American children travel internationally each year, and the number is increasing. In general, children face most of the same health risks as their parents, but the consequences can be more serious. Some conditions can be difficult to recognize in children, especially in those who aren't talking yet. If you are planning to travel to another country with your kids, be familiar with the risks of travel to help them stay safe and healthy.
Diarrhea is among the most common illnesses experienced by children who are traveling. For infants, the best way to prevent diarrhea is breastfeeding. Older children visiting developing countries should follow basic food and water precautions: eat only food that is cooked and served hot, peel fresh fruits and vegetables or wash them in clean water, and drink only beverages from sealed containers or water that has been boiled or treated. Children should wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand cleaner frequently.
Diarrhea can be serious in infants and small children because of the risk of dehydration. The best treatment for diarrhea in children is to give plenty of fluids; there is usually no need to give medicine. Oral rehydration salts (available online or in stores in most developing countries) may be used to prevent dehydration. Over-the-counter drugs that contain bismuth (Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate) should not be used in children, and antibiotics are usually reserved for serious cases. A child who appears to be severely dehydrated, or who has a fever or bloody stools, should get immediate medical attention.
Malaria and Other Diseases Spread by Bugs
Children who travel to areas where malaria is a risk should take drugs to prevent malaria, just like their parents. A doctor can tell you which malaria medicine is best for your child. Many of these drugs have a bitter taste, but a pharmacist can pulverize the capsules and put the powder in a flavorless gelatin capsule. Because of the risk of overdose, malaria drugs should be stored in childproof containers and kept out of the reach of children.
Malaria drugs are not 100% effective, and other diseases (such as dengue, leishmaniasis, and trypanosomiasis) also are spread by insects, so children (and their parents!) need to avoid bug bites. Children should wear bug spray and long pants and sleeves. Permethrin can be applied to clothes for extra protection. At night, children should sleep in screened, air-conditioned rooms or under a bed net.
Rabies is more common in children than in adults because children are more likely to try to pet strange animals. Children need to be told to stay away from all animals; however, they also need to be assured that if they do get bitten, they won't get in trouble and should tell an adult immediately. Any animal bite should be washed thoroughly with soap and water and must receive medical attention as soon as possible.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death in children who travel, and drowning is the second-leading cause of death. Children should always ride in age-appropriate car seats when traveling. Parents should plan to bring car seats with them because they may not be available in many countries. Children should be supervised closely and should always wear a life preserver around water.
Routine and Travel Vaccines
If possible, children should complete their routine childhood vaccines on the normal schedule before traveling overseas. However, if they must travel earlier, accelerated schedules are available for many vaccines. Some travel vaccines cannot be given to very young children, so it's important to check with a travel medicine doctor, who should consult the child's pediatrician, as early as possible before travel.
Although there are some special considerations for women who travel while pregnant— especially if they are going to a developing country—most pregnant women can travel safely with a little advance preparation. If you are pregnant and planning an international trip, follow these tips so that you and your baby stay safe and healthy.
Pre-Travel Care and Travel Health Insurance
The first thing you should do is make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in travel medicine, ideally at least 4–6 weeks before you leave. A travel medicine specialist can review your itinerary, make recommendations based on the health risks at your destination, and give you any vaccines you may need. You should also talk to your obstetrician about your trip, so he or she can make sure it is safe for you to travel. Your travel medicine doctor and your obstetrician may need to talk to each other about your care.
Next, consider how you are going to get care overseas, if you need it. Your health insurance in the United States might not pay for care you receive in another country, so check with your insurance company. Consider getting supplemental travel health insurance, and make sure the policy will also cover the baby if you give birth during your trip. If you are traveling to a remote area, an insurance policy that covers medical evacuation will pay for your transportation to a high-quality hospital, in case of emergency.
Before you book a flight, check how late in your pregnancy the airline will let you fly. Most will let you fly until 36 weeks, but some have an earlier cutoff. Your feet may become swollen on a long flight, so wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing, and try to walk around every hour or so. To reduce your risk of a blood clot, your doctor may recommend compression stockings or leg exercises you can do in your seat.
If you are going on a cruise, check with the cruise line to find out if they have specific guidance for pregnant women. Most will not allow you to travel after 24–28 weeks, and you may need to have a note from your doctor stating you are fit to travel.
At your destination, always wear a seatbelt on a car or bus. A lap belt with shoulder strap is best, and the straps should be placed carefully above and below your stomach.
Food and Water Safety
Travelers’ diarrhea is caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, and dehydration from travelers’ diarrhea can be more of a problem for pregnant women. In addition, other bacteria and viruses spread by food or water can lead to more severe illnesses that can cause problems for a pregnant woman and her baby. Therefore, if you are traveling in a developing country, you should carefully follow food and water safety measures:
Pregnant women should avoid travel to areas with malaria. If you must go while you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about taking a drug to prevent malaria. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, so you should also wear insect repellent for additional protection.
Types of travels:
Adventure travel can be a great way to explore the world and be active. Learning about your risks and preparing for your trip will help make your vacation a fun and safe adventure.
"Adventure travel" is a type of tourism, often to remote locations, to explore and engage in physical activity. Adventure travel often includes "extreme" activities such as mountain climbing, exploring caves, bungee jumping, mountain biking, rafting, zip-lining, paragliding, and rock climbing.
This fast-growing travel trend is a popular way to see new places and test your physical abilities. However, these activities also present risks to your health and safety. Learning about these risks and preparing for your trip will help make your vacation a fun and safe adventure.
Risks of Adventure Travel
Adventure activities, both at home and abroad, carry some risk of injury. Because this type of international tourism often involves travel to remote locations, additional adventure travel risks include the lack of quick emergency response if injured, poor trauma care, and unexpected weather changes that can make safety challenging and rescue efforts more difficult. Remember that general outdoor risks, such as sunburn and bug bites, apply to adventure travel as well. But most adventure activities can be fun, exciting, and safe if you prepare for your trip and follow good safety practices.
Also be aware that if you are injured during your trip, your health insurance may not cover health care you receive while abroad. You can buy travel health and evacuation insurance to fill this gap.
What You Can Do
Adventure travelers, take these steps to prepare for and stay safe during your vacation:
Travel to Cold Climates
Travelers to cold climates face many risks. Even in mild climates, wind and rain can produce cold-related injuries in temperatures as warm as 50°F, and swimming or diving in cold water can make you lose your ability to stay afloat in less than 15 minutes.
When traveling in cold climates, wear warm clothing in several loose layers. Gloves should protect your hands, and a hat or hood should protect your head. In wet conditions, shoes should be waterproof and have good traction. Make sure that your cold-weather gear does not restrict your movement or block your eyesight. When engaging in adventure activities in cold weather or around cold water, have safety equipment and gear that will keep you warm and dry.
Hypothermia happens when your body temperature drops below 95°F. Mild hypothermia can make you feel confused, and you may not think anything is wrong until it is too late. Being too cold can also cloud your judgment and cause you to make mistakes, which can be deadly.
Early symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, feeling tired, being clumsy, and being confused. As your body loses more heat, the shivering may stop, your skin may turn blue, the pupils of your eye may expand, your pulse and breathing may slow, and you may pass out.
Frostbite happens when a part of the body freezes, damaging tissue. Fingers and toes are most at risk. If the tissue can’t be saved, the body part may need to be amputated. Warning signs of frostbite include numbness or tingling, stinging, or pain where you are most exposed to the cold. Frostbite is treated by warming the body part in warm water.
Modern clothing and equipment have decreased the risk for adventure travelers, but frostbite still occurs after accidents, as a result of poor planning, and in severe, unexpected weather.
Travel to Hot Climates
Traveling in hot climates can make you sick, especially if you are not accustomed to the heat. People at highest risk are the elderly, young children, and people with chronic illnesses, but even young and healthy people can get sick from heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
When you are not in an air-conditioned building, take these steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths when traveling in hot climates:
Overheating can result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Symptoms include excessive thirst, profuse sweating, headache, dizziness or confusion, and nausea. If you or anyone you are traveling with develops these symptoms, get out of the sun and try to cool off by fanning or getting in the water. Heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency; get medical attention if symptoms persist.
Era Health Centre has an excellent team on standby for emergency response. We closely coordinate with several hospitals for immediate attention to critical cases. We have a standard operating procedure to ensure timely search and rescue operations. We also have an excellent network in all regions where we work to expedite the process.