Overseas travelers, especially those visiting the third world, have a much higher chance of becoming ill with a preventable infection compared to those who travel within the United States. Following appropriate pre-trip recommendations and utilizing precautions while traveling abroad can significantly decrease one’s risk of getting sick.
Food and water borne illness account for the majority of travel-acquired infection. 20-60% of visitors touring abroad will get traveler’s diarrhea. Cook all food thoroughly and avoid those that cannot be boiled or peeled. Water should also be boiled, micro-filtered or treated with iodine. Restricting use to bottled water is an acceptable alternative. Do not use ice or brush teeth with tap water. Do not swim in non-chlorinated bodies of fresh water. Prior to travel, ask you physician for a 1-3 day course of ciprofloxacin (or azithromycin if traveling to SE Asia). Take the course of antibiotic at the first sign of diarrheal illness, and follow the advice listed in How to Treat Acute Diarrhea.
Insect borne infection is largely preventable with the proper pre-trip immunizations. Go to the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel and find out which if any immunizations are recommended for the areas to which you will be traveling. Malaria is the most common insect-borne infection, and can be prevented with antibiotics such as Lariam. This antibiotic, and others like it, is typically started prior to, taken during and continued for a few weeks after returning from one’s trip. Always use an insect repellent containing either 30% DEET or 20% picaridin, and wear loose fitting clothes that cover as much of the body as possible.
Staying healthy while traveling abroad requires some pre-trip planning and use of common sense strategies that will ensure a safe and memorable experience.
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