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Health Precautions When Traveling

By guest blogger Brianne Wheeler
Part two of two-part series on travel insurance and precautions to take

Preparations and precautions can and should be taken when traveling in groups, especially to foreign countries. Here are the Consumer Reports on Health risks and precautions to be taken to prepare better for a trip. They go hand in hand with travel insurance to provide traveler peace of mind.

Traveler's Diarrhea
Most common illness, strikes up to 60% of visitors to developing countries

  • Self-help step: Avoid non-pasteurized dairy products and tap water
  • Self-help step: Choose foods served steaming hot
  • Medical supplies to pack: Non prescription loperamide (Imodium A-D)
  • Medical supplies to pack: Prescription antibiotics for more severe cases

Motion Sickness
Nausea as a result of the inner ear, eyes, and body sending conflicting signals to the brain while flying, boating and driving

  • Self-help step: Keep head still, close eyes or look at stationary objects
  • Self-help step: Avoid reading
  • Self-help step: Open vents or windows to increase air flow
  • Self-help step: Move to the center of the boat
  • Medical supplies to pack: Prescription scopolamine skin patch (Transaderm-Scop) or tablet version (Scopace)
  • Medical supplies to pack: OTC drugs dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizene (Bonine) are not as effective

Jet Lag
Insomnia, irritability, and foggy-headedness caused by a sudden time-zone shift

  • Self-help step: Before traveling, shift activities to correspond to time zone of destination
  • Self-help step: After arrival, spend time in the sun
  • Medical supplies to pack: Melatonin (2-3mg) may ease symptoms when started on first night of travel (has not worked in some studies)

Insect-Borne Diseases
Across much of Latin America, Africa and Asia, mosquito-borne malaria and dengue fever are serious concerns

  • Self-help step: Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, closed-toe shoes
  • Self-help step: Use repellents containing 30-35% deet on exposed skin
  • Self-help step: Sleep under mosquito net treated with permethrin repellent (Duranon, Permanone)
  • Medical supplies to pack: No vaccine is available for Malaria; ask your doctor for the best drug for your destination
  • Medical supplies to pack: No vaccine or preventative drug is currently available for Dengue Fever

High Altitude Sickness
Headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting resulting from a rapid increase in elevation

  • Self-help step: Before going to a high altitude, spend a few days at an intermediate elevation
  • Self-help step: Until you are acclimated, avoid rigorous activity
  • Self-help step: Drink a lot of fluid to avoid dehydration
  • Medical supplies to pack: Prescription acetazolamide (Diamox) starting 1-2 days before altitude change

Blood Clots in Airplanes
Prolonged sitting increases the risk of leg clots, potentially causing a life-threatening lung embolism

  • Self-help step: While seated, flex ankles and knees often
  • Self-help step: Walk in the aisles about once an hour
  • Self-help step: Drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverage before, during and after flight to avoid dehydration
  • Medical supplies to pack: If you take a drug that increases the chance of clots or have other risk factors, consider compression stockings, and/or ask your doctor about preventative aspirin or heparin

Car Accidents and Other Injuries
Accounts for about 1 in 4 travel-associated deaths

  • Self-help step: Don't drive at night in rural areas
  • Self-help step: Don't drink while swimming or boating
  • Self-help step: If possible, choose lodging with smoke detectors and sprinklers
  • Medical supplies to pack: Bring bandages, sunblock, tweezers, moleskin for blisters, water purification tablets, pain reliever, topical antibiotic
  • Medical supplies to pack: Carry list of medical conditions and contact numbers

Avian Influenza A (H5N1)
Transmission to humans is rare, but the influenza is widespread in birds

  • Self-help step: Avoid contact with chickens, ducks, geese, live-food markets, places contaminated with poultry excrement
  • Self-help step: Make sure food is thoroughly cooked
  • Medical supplies to pack: No vaccine for Avian Flu is currently available
  • Medical supplies to pack: Risk is too small to warrant carrying anti-flu prescription drugs

Source: Courtesy Consumer Reports on Health

Brianne Wheeler is the Assistant Marketing Manager for Travel Assist Network, a global medical services company that provides medial evacuation, travel protection, and critical information services to travelers worldwide. It also provides custom protection for corporations, travel groups, and non-profit organizations tailored to meet each group's coverage needs.

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