It’s virtually impossible to avoid picking up some illness when traveling. The passenger in front of, behind, or beside you hacks throughout the entire 8 hours of the flight. Fellow cruise passengers are sneezing all over the buffet. You really want to try the kava at a South Pacific ceremony – it would be impolite to say no. What harm can a margarita made in Mexico do to you, unless it’s made from tap water?
The mosquitoes back home might not bother you, but those in Egypt or Costa Rica could cause itching that keeps you awake all night, plus give you some exotic diseases. Maybe you don’t have biting flies back home, but parts of Africa have tsetse flies, and they also carry nasty diseases.
As soon as you know you will be traveling to a foreign country, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for health information. Enter the country name, and you will get a list of recommendations for immunizations and/or medications. It’s important to do this early because some immunizations need to be done several months before travel. Some require a booster after a few months. If you are traveling to areas where Yellow Fever is a risk, you may need to provide proof of that immunization before being allowed back into the US. We carry our Yellow Fever cards with our Passports.
By the way, Yellow Fever vaccine has been unavailable in many locations in the US. You may need to travel a few hours to get to a clinic that has it. An interactive map on the CDC site will show you where the closest clinic is.
If you have the option, visit a doctor who specializes in travel medicine. He/she will be able to provide more advice about the areas you will be traveling to, and will probably have the necessary serums and medications on hand. Remember to ask for altitude sickness and motion sickness medications or treatments if you are susceptible to either of these.
Pack the Immodium. Ask your doctor for a prescription for Cipro. Stock up on some electrolye powders like Gaterade or Propel (G2 is a low-cal option), available in cartons or packets. All of these items can help if you get diarrhea.
We picked up a Norwalk type virus on a cruise, just because I wanted to participate in a kava ceremony in Fiji. Big Mistake. We went a week without eating because everything went through us, even water. Our primary tourist attraction became the toilets, since we often had to race each other to get to them. Dehydration was a real concern, for which the electrolyte powders can help (assuming you have access to clean water.)
The electrolyte powders can also help with altitude sickness (which might feel like the worst hangover you’ve ever had), and with heat exhaustion (which could lead to collapsing in a South African airport, on the verge of heat stroke), as well as with dehydration. None of these are good for your health.
Spray your shirts, pants and socks with Permethrin Insect Repellent Treatment. This is powerful stuff, so read the directions before applying. Bring Deet. Insects consider me to be a delicacy so I also pack some mosquito nets to cover our hats and faces. By the way, Permethrin is effective against ticks, so you might want to spray your gardening and hiking clothing at home too.
Many people take Airborne or Emergen-C before and during air travel. Personally, I think it helps me, but my husband doesn’t think it works for him. Hard to know how effective these things are, but what do you have to lose?
Seriously, there is room in your suitcase for these things. You’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time – make sure you can enjoy it.