Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel
Updated: May 13, 2015 by Catharine D. Allado
Every year more and more Americans are traveling internationally for vacation, business, and volunteerism, and to visit friends and family. Whatever your reason for traveling, the information on this page will help you to be Proactive, Prepared, and Protected when it comes to your health and the health of others while you are traveling.
Learn the 3 P’s when traveling:
Take steps to anticipate any issues that could arise during your trip.
1. Learn about your destination.
A. Health Risks
- Learn about the health risks related to your trip by going to the Destination page and choosing the country or countries you will be visiting
- Be sure to check for Travel Health Notices for your destination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) post country-specific travel notices and warnings on their websites. Information is updated regularly. It is a good idea to be aware of any weather or health concerns before you leave.
- Some areas are prone to certain natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis. To find out if your destination is at a higher risk for certain natural disasters, see the Country-specific Information Pages (U.S. Department of State) in the “Special Circumstances” section
For information about types of natural disasters, what to do to prepare in case one happens, and what to do after one happens, see the CDC Natural Disasters and Severe Weather website.
B. Safety and Security Concerns
The U.S. Department of State provides helpful information about safety and security in foreign countries.
- Learn about common travel safety concerns on the Safety Issues page
- Check the current Travel Warnings (long-term conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable) to see if your destination is listed
- Check to see if your destination has a current Travel Alert (short-term conditions that are risks to the security of U.S. citizens, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, violence, or high-profile events)
The Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) provides helpful information about road safety in other countries.
C. Local Laws and Culture
It is important to understand the laws and culture of the places you will be visiting. You can learn about countries by using many different resources such as websites, guidebooks, and other media.
The following links can be a good start:
- Country-specific Information Pages from the U.S. Department of State include information topics such as country descriptions and entry/exit requirements
- General background information from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
2. See a Doctor Before You Travel.
It is important that you visit a travel medicine specialist or a doctor familiar with travel medicine to answer your questions and make specific recommendations for you. The best time to see the doctor is at least 4-6 weeks before your trip.
3. Think about your health status.
- Are you too sick to travel? (Recent illnesses, injuries, or surgeries)
- Do you have any special health needs?
- If you are sick, check with your airline to see what options you have for rescheduling your flight
No one wants to think about getting sick or hurt during a trip, but sometimes these things happen. You may not be able to prevent every illness or injury, but you can plan ahead to be able to deal with them.
• Pack smart
• Plan ahead for illnesses or injuries during your trip
• Know what to do if you become sick or injured on your trip
• Know and share important information about your trip
It is important to practice healthy behaviors during your trip and after you return home. This section outlines how you can protect yourself and others from illness during your trip.
1. Pay attention to your health during your trip.
- Use sunscreen and insect repellent as directed
- Be careful about food and water
- Hiker applying bug spray
- Try not to take risks with your health and safety
- Limit alcohol intake, and do not drink alcohol and drive
- Wear a seatbelt
- Wear protective gear when doing adventure activities
- Respect your host country and its people by following local laws and customs
2. Pay attention to your health when you come home.
- Keep yourself warm as your body has to get used to the change in temperature. This means your immune system may not be its normal self and you may be vulnerable to catching the flu.
- Keep exercising. Most likely when you travel, you will be doing a lot of walking. If you don’t have a regular routine, now may be the time to keep your routines going.
- Watch what you eat and drink when you return. When you travel (especially overseas), your body can take a beating (physically and mentally). Cabin pressure, fatigue from staying out late, change in diet due to foreign foods, etc. may drive your body out of whack.
In Summary: Always be Prepared, Be Aware and Be Safe. At the same time, don’t forget to Have Fun! The whole point of traveling is to get away from it all. Have a great time and enjoy. You deserve it.
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