The sun is out and it’s that time of the year when we all can’t wait to leave the house and stay out all summer. Day trips, outdoor adventures or even an oversea vacation – we all have been pent up through the winter and just can’t wait to be free.
As you make your plans it is important to be prepared to avoid any health and safety risks. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for those long-awaited trips and to keep you and your family safe.
Find out details about your destination – Do some research about the places you plan to visit and acquaint yourself with new and important health risks. If you are traveling abroad, make sure to check travel.state.gov or https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel, for vital information about required vaccinations, travel advisories and possible diseases.
Get a check-up– It is always recommended that you pay a visit to your health provider and get a routine check-up before you travel. Make sure you are in tip-top shape and that you are up to date on vaccinations like measles and influenza.
Prepare a first aid kit – Make sure to pack an emergency travel kit that holds important prescriptions and medicines that you may need while traveling. Pack basic supplies like bandages, alcohol, hot/cold compresses and gauze. Don’t forget to pack a copy of your health insurance card as well.
Be SMART – If you are planning a trip oversees, make sure to register with the US Embassy or Consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get the latest updates and alerts before and during your trip. This also helps the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or a family emergency.
Prepare for the unexpected – Make copies of your travel plans and documents with a family member and/or upload them to a cloud-based storage system in case you lose them while traveling. Verify that your health insurance covers medical care abroad – most plans don’t, so be sure to get travel insurance. Travel insurance covers health and medical expenses while offering a wide variety of additional services like travel delay, lost baggage and lost passport service.
Be careful what you eat and drink – Always make sure you know how your food is handled. Contaminated food or drinks are the easiest way to spread diseases which can cause traveler’s diarrhea.
- Always eat food that is cooked through and served hot.
- Always drink bottled water, sodas and drinks that are sealed.
- Eat fruits and vegetables that are washed with safe water and that you have peeled yourself.
- Avoid ice that is made with tap water.
Protect yourself from the sun – Double check that your sunscreen is at least SPF 30 to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. I always recommend Blue Lizard, which is a mineral based sunscreen that uses natural ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Read the label and reapply as needed.
Prevent insect bites – Always use insect repellents especially in developing countries to prevent you from serious diseases. Use an EPA-registered insect repellant with one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
Always buckle up and choose safe transportation– 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.
- Don’t ride motorcycles. If you must, make sure to wear a helmet.
- Avoid overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or vans
- Be alert when crossing the street. Know local traffic laws to avoid collisions.
- Always wear a seat belt and lock your doors.
AFTER YOU RETURN
Keep a close eye on your health – Symptoms can arise after you return home, so make sure to watch yourself closely. If you begin to feel ill, see a doctor immediately and inform your doctor where you have been and what you did during your trip. This will help your doctor when giving you a diagnosis of possible infections from other countries.