Get Out of Town: 6 Key Tips to Staying Healthy While Traveling

Traveling abroad can be a rewarding and excellent experience. However, whether traveling for family visitation, sightseeing or business, international travel is not without some health risks. Use these key points to educate your patients to better equip them to have a safe and pleasant experience.


Get Out of Town: 6 Key Tips to Staying Healthy While Traveling

International Travel is Growing Again

For some, this is a long-awaited relief! They have been waiting to hop on a plane to wherever, whenever! For some, it is the chance to finally see that family member again. Maybe for some, it is a dreaded necessity for their company that they were happy to have gotten relief from when all business meetings were conducted via virtual platforms.

Whether it is the families finally taking that dream trip, seeing that long-distance family member, business meetings, sightseeing with a tour group, or sailing the seas on a cruise ship, traveling poses health risks to everyone. Here are some things to review with your patients, friends and family members before they travel.

Before You Travel

1- Check your vaccination record

The risk of contracting some viruses increases with travel. For example, Hepatitis A, a virus that is spread through the handling and consumption of food infected with it, has a two-part vaccination that effectively prevents illness. The vaccine did not become a part of pediatric vaccinations until 2007. Subsequently, many adults have never received this vaccine. Other countries recommend or require updated vaccines like yellow fever, MMR and Polio because of the higher risk in the area. The CDC, as well as travel health clinics, can supply country-specific data on these vaccine-preventable illnesses.

2- Protect your skin

Illness as a result of sun exposure and insect bites put a real wrench in travel experiences. Educating your patients on the importance of keeping their skin covered to prevent insect bites and sunburns can make a big impact.

Sunscreen with a 30 SPF will block 97% of UVB rays and should be applied before insect repellant. Having the right insect repellent to apply to exposed areas is also essential. Repellents with 30% DEET are effective against most insects.

Encourage your patients to invest in 2-3 outfits that are of a light weight, but protective material that can be mixed and matched throughout the trip. Materials geared toward travel are often protective yet still breathable, even in hot climates. Outfits should include tall socks, long pants, long sleeves, and protective footwear. Additionally, clothing can be sprayed with permethrin and allowed to air dry a few days before packing. This provides an additional layer of insect repellent.

3- Drink from a bottle ... or any other sealed beverage

Bottled water should be the only water consumed when traveling abroad. Encourage your patients to put tape over the faucets in their accommodations to remind themselves not to use tap water, even when brushing their teeth. Other beverages that are carbonated are also a good choice because they ensure a proper seal has been in place. Additionally, ice should be avoided, as it is typically made from tap water.

4- Take your medications with you

Key medications can be very helpful when traveling. Pepto Bismol can be taken for mild traveler's diarrhea. It has formulations suitable for air travel and can be very effective in saving multiple trips to the bathroom. Caution, though, it can only be taken by those who are able to take aspirin-containing products. Also, many providers will write a prescription for a 3-day course of antibiotics in the case of severe traveler's diarrhea. Those traveling to higher altitudes should also consult their primary care provider or travel health clinician about the use of acetazolamide (Diamox) to prevent altitude sickness. All other regularly prescribed medications should be kept in their labeled containers for ease of travel through security checkpoints. Patients should also have a detailed medication list kept in an area that is easy to locate quickly.

5- Consider travel health insurance

Emergencies out of network and especially out of the country can be financially devastating. Reputable travel health insurance companies offer affordable policies for the trip duration. They also provide resources for locating accredited emergency facilities, should the need arise during their travels.

6- Finally, pack a first aid kit

Depending on the place of travel, basic first aid may be hard to come by. A first aid kit should contain the following:

  • alcohol swabs
  • an assortment of bandages
  • pain relief medications
  • oral and topical antihistamine medications for allergic reactions and insect bites
  • extra contacts or eye glasses
  • hand sanitizer
  • a face shield
  • small scissors

A few brief moments educating your patients on basic safety considerations while traveling can have a huge impact on their experiences. It will give greater peace of mind and allow for much more enjoyable travels.   


Travelers' Health: CDC

rfetrow is a MSN, APRN, NP and specializes in travel health, functional medicine, wellness.

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Jennifer Romans, BSN, RN

1 Article; 10 Posts

Specializes in Health Writer, Registered Nurse. Has 21 years experience.

Having recently traveled abroad, I agree that this list is a must.  It can be difficult to locate and purchase little first aid items in another country and being prepared really makes the trip go smoothly with kids and family.

RFetrow, MSN, APRN, NP

1 Article; 2 Posts

Specializes in travel health, functional medicine, wellness..

Jennifer, thank you for your comment, and your perspective. Unforeseen hiccups, even minor issues can quickly become much larger inconveniences without some of these preps.