Travel Tips on Healthy Travel
- Our bodies are programmed to experience peaks and valleys
throughout the day and night. Adjust your travel plans accordingly:
- Two periods of maximum sleepiness are at about 3-5 a.m.
and 3-5 p.m., ďhome time.Ē
- Two periods of maximum alertness are at about 9-11 a.m.
and 9-11 p.m., ďhome time.Ē
- The use of sleep or alertness medications-prescription or
over-the-counterómay be most useful when you are in transition,
adapting to the new time zone. Follow these rules:
- Know what you are takingóread labels.
- Test medications at home, first.
- Use the lowest effective dose.
- Canít sleep in a strange bed? Donít toss and turn in bed
for more than 30 minutes; you canít force yourself to sleep.
If you havenít fallen asleep within that time, get out of bed
until you feel you are ready to fall asleep.
- The effects of caffeine can last three to four hours, so
donít use it too close to a planned sleep time.
- Light is the most powerful time cue to set your bodyís circadian
clock. Sunlight can help reset the body clock to the local time
Ė a good argument for arriving before sunset.
- Hereís another tip for countering jet lag. Go direct to
your hotel on arrival (on east-west trips, this may entail planning
for early check-in), close the shades in your room and leave
a wake-up call for two hours. On rising, open the shades and
stand in the sunlight if itís still daytime. Youíll have taken
a big step toward resetting your body clock to local time.
- Overeating on airplanes can exacerbate jet lag. Consume
about the same size meal as you normally would. Realize that
everyone gets somewhat drowsy about 90 minutes after a meal.
- Donít remain in a stuffy cabin if seasickness strikes on
a cruise ship. Instead, head up to the deck for some fresh air
and sunshine. Concentrate on a faraway object such as a cloud
or a passing ship.
- Did you know that ginger capsules and peppermint are considered
natural preventatives for motion sickness? Consider trying out
one of these before your next short trip where you expect to
experience mild discomfort. (Obviously donít try out this cure
on an extended trip, where if it doesnít work youíll be miserable
for a long time!)
- Do you suffer from motion sickness? Drugstores sell wristbands
that can reduce the problem by targeting pressure points on
the wrist, employing a principle similar to acupuncture. Another
highly effective solution to motion sickness is simply to lie
flat Ė easier done on a boat than an airplane.
General Health Tips
- When traveling to China, donít forget a Hepatitis B shot.
If you become ill and require medical care and you are in the
middle of China, there may be a less than acceptable standard
for sterility. The shot is especially important for adoptive
parents traveling to China to bring home their baby. Hepatitis
B is transmitted via bodily fluids and is an occupational hazard
of parenting. The baby may be a carrier, and hence be infectious
to you. It would be wise to consider vaccinating siblings and
grandparents waiting back home.
- If traveling to Saudi Arabia on a religious pilgrimage, a
meningitis shot should be considered because of the overcrowded
conditions in Mecca and Medina. A few years ago, an outbreak
of meningococcal disease among returning pilgrims and their
families resulted in 60 deaths.
- When eating fruit that needs to be peeled abroad - wash
your hands, then wash the fruit, peel the fruit, and then wash
your hands again before eating the fruit. This way, your hands
wonít transfer any lingering bacteria on the peel to the edible
portion of the fruit.
- Eating spicy foods from street vendors can be hazardous.
The spices may mask the fact that the cooking oil is rancid.
- For trips to exotic locations such as sub-Saharan Africa,
the Amazon basin in South America, or places that have yellow
fever and malaria it is a good idea to see a specialist in travel
health. Most primary care providers are not as familiar with
all of the health risks as a travel health specialist. WTA strategic
partner, Passport Health provides not only health advice, but
also security information on foreign destinations. Visit
WTAís Travel Health Program for
- Yellow fever vaccinations have to be administered by an
official vaccination center. Most travel medicine clinics are
considered official vaccination centers.
- If you require medical attention in a third-world country,
watch to make sure hospital workers arenít cutting costs with
used supplies. If possible, have a friend stay by your side
and keep an eye out for questionable practices.
- In some countries (like Nepal and India), empty water bottles
create an environmental problem because they have no way of
disposing of the plastic. Bring a water purification system
- According to a London researcher, people who have had orthopedic
surgery within the past three months should not take trips where
they must sit for more than three hours. Dr. Ander Cohen of
Kingís College Hospital in London found that the risk of developing
leg clots, possibly leading to a pulmonary embolism, increases
three-fold for this group. To read more about preventing leg
clots while traveling, click here.
- A surgical mask or scarf is a handy item to keep in your
luggage, especially in areas of high pollution.
- Hotel rooms are notoriously dry. Increase the moisture in
the room by placing wet towels near the bed while you sleep,
or lightly sprinkle the carpet with water.
- The FAA issued information regarding post-9/11 security
measures as they relate to air travelers with disabilities.
Click here to read
- Keep a stash of antiseptic towelettes on hand for you and
your family whenever you travel. Not only will they come in
handy at mealtime, they can be of use during a medical emergency
- On a hot day in a theme park, don't forget to keep hydrated
by drinking plenty of water. The cost for a bottle may be higher
than you'd normally pay, but the benefits to your body will
make you glad you did!
- For in-depth information on health insurance while traveling,
see Advanced Planning - Key To A Safe
Trip Abroad. Click here to view.
- Beginning a few days before overseas travel, eat light meals.
The less you eat before and during a long flight, the better
youíll feel when you arrive.
- Take along some moisturizer on long flights. Use it every
couple of hours to combat the dry, recirculated air in plane
- When traveling through desert regions, regardless of the
time of year, bring warm clothing and blankets in case you become
stranded. Even in summer, the temperatures can dip below freezing
at night. Also, bring plenty of water and a supply of nutritious
food for energy.
- We canít stress enough the importance of sunscreen! Even
if you wear sunscreen daily (as you should), increase the SPF
if you are traveling to a tropical destination. Donít forget
to cover areas you donít normally think about: scalp, ears,
eyelids, hands, as well as the tops and soles of feet.
- Get a head start on your beach vacation by using a sunless
tanning product for several days before your trip. This way
you wonít be tempted to bake yourself to get some quick color.
- If you need to take preventive medicine on a trip (such
as malaria pills), begin several days before the trip to check
for possible side effects.
- Donít forget to pack at least one extra pair of eyeglasses
or contact lenses when you travel. You may want to bring your
prescription as well.
- If you are planning an active vacation, do regular extra
exercise ahead of time to get into shape. If backpacking were
the activity, a good idea would be to walk up and down stairs
for 15 minutes each day, wearing your hiking boots and a pack.
At first, walk with a small load, and then increase your load
each day until you are carrying your estimated pack weight.
Not only will you get in shape, this will motivate you to pack
- Before booking an international cruise ship, check out the
vesselís sanitation rating using this link:
The Centers for Disease Control and National Center for Environmental
Health run the Vessel Sanitation Program, performing unannounced
inspections at least twice yearly. The goal is to decrease gastrointestinal
illnesses onboard by inspecting the drinking water supply, pools
and spas, food service practices, employee hygiene habits, and
employee training programs related to environmental and public
- When bringing medications along on a trip, carry part of
the documentation that includes the generic name rather than
the brand name. This may make getting a replacement easier.
- If you have a serious medical condition, discuss your travel
plans with your doctor. Travel conditions (altitude, heat, cold,
stress, etc.) not only affect overall health, but also the effectiveness
- As a precaution, donít travel for a couple of weeks after
changing medicationóyouíll need that time to see if adverse
- Unless your doctor recommends not traveling, people with
pacemakers can generally participate as much as others. Be prepared
for a manual security check at the airport, as the device will
activate the electromagnetic metal detectors. Donít walk through
the detector if it is blocked; standing in the detector might
cause the heart to skip several beats.
- To relieve stress when youíre traveling, set aside a little
time for exercise. If your hotel doesnít have its own exercise
room, ask if they have an arrangement with a local health club
that you can take advantage of.
- Although the correlation is still being studied, scientists
have found that exercise can help set the circadian clock.
- Here are some of the areas of the world whose water supply
you should not drink without treatment: Mexico, Central America,
South America, Africa, Asia, Russia and former USSR countries,
- Although smoking is allowed on most international flights,
if you are bothered by smoke you can request a seat far away
from the smoking section to get some relief.
- When filling shampoo or similar bottles, only fill part
way and squeeze out any excess air as much as possible. If you
fill them all of the way to the top, pressure could cause them
to explode. Place all bottles in a plastic bag inside of your
toiletry bag to avoid spillage into your luggage.
- As a precaution, have your doctor check your young children
for ear infections before flying.
- Beginning a few days before an airplane trip, drink 8-10
glasses of water each day and reduce your intake of caffeine
and alcohol. This will help offset in-flight dehydration.
- Did you know that drowning is one of the leading causes
of death for Americans in the Caribbean? While enjoying these
exotic beaches, go in the water only if thereís a lifeguard
on duty. And always bring along a pair of sneakers. In some
areas, sea urchins can make wading a painful experience!
- As you do your final check of the house before leaving home,
unplug all the electronic items that you can. Unhook your phone
line from your computer modem to prevent surges from destroying
your computer. Disconnect your automatic garage door opener
so it canít accidentally open. If you must leave something plugged
in while youíre away, use a surge protector.
- If there is a chance of getting your feet wet on a trek,
put your feet in plastic bags before slipping into your shoes.
At the end of the day, your feet and socks will still be dry
and you can use the bags for some other purpose or dispose of
- If you like to get some peace and quiet during a flight,
bring along a pair of disposable earplugs. They can block enough
of the noise of the cabin to let you read or sleep in peace.
- To stay healthy while abroad, drink only bottled or boiled
water, or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water,
fountain drinks, and ice cubes. Don't eat food purchased from
- Repellents and bed netting are your two best protections
when traveling in high mosquito populated areas.
- Sleeping Sickness is a potential hazard in tropical Africa,
particularly in the game parks of East Africa and northern Botswana.
Only a few cases have occurred in American travelers. Wearing
long shirts and pants may decrease the risk of bites. There
is no vaccine for Sleeping Sickness.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), persons born in or after 1957 should consider a second
dose of measles vaccine before traveling abroad.
- While abroad, donít eat or drink dairy products unless you
know they have been pasteurized.
- Travelers' diarrhea, the number one illness in travelers,
can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which can
contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and
vomiting, fever, or liver damage. Make sure your food and drinking
water are safe.
- Swimming in contaminated water may result in skin, eye,
ear, and certain intestinal infections, particularly if the
swimmer's head is submerged. Generally for infectious disease
prevention, only pools that contain chlorinated water can be
considered safe places to swim. In certain areas, fatal diseases
have occurred following swimming in warm dirty water. Swimmers
should avoid beaches that might be contaminated with human sewage
or with dog feces. Biting and stinging fish and corals and jellyfish
may be hazardous to the swimmer. Never swim alone or when under
the influence of alcohol or drugs, and never dive head first
into an unfamiliar body of water.
- A traveler going abroad with any preexisting medical problems
should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing
the medical condition and any prescription medications, including
the generic name of prescribed drugs. Any medications being
carried overseas should be left in their original containers
and be clearly labeled. Travelers should check with the foreign
embassy of the country they are visiting to make sure any required
medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics.
- Available from the U.S. Government Printing Office is Health
Information for International Travelers by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC). This contains a global rundown
of disease and immunization advice and other health guidance,
including risks in particular countries. For additional health
information, the CDC maintains the international travelers hotline
at 1-888-232-3228, an automated faxback
service at 1-888-232-3299 and a home
page on the Internet at
- Some countries require foreign visitors to have inoculations
or medical tests before entering. Before traveling, check the
latest entry requirements with the foreign embassy of the country(ies)
you plan to visit.
- Prescription drugs have different names in different countries.
Be sure you have the generic name of a pharmaceutical if there
is a chance you will need to reorder it abroad.
- Travel tummy is less likely to be the result of unfriendly
bacteria than of unfamiliar enzymes. One way to avoid nausea
from that cause is charcoal, available for this purpose from
any pharmacy. Nearly flavorless and with no side effects, charcoal
suppresses enzyme activity until the food has moved further
down the digestive system.
- On long trips, blood tends to "pool" in the lower part of
the body as the result of immobility, producing fidgety legs,
discomfort, and sometimes even pain. Extreme cases can lead
to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the cause of multiple deaths
each year. To avoid this, periodically exercise the legs with
a stroll up and down the aisle or by walking in place beside
your seat. If driving, stop and walk for a bit every couple
of hours. Keep hydrated. Click here
to read a thorough article on steps to take to prevent blood
clotting while flying.
- Dehydration can be dangerous, and you donít have to cross
a desert to be at risk. Air travel can dry out your sinuses,
causing discomfort and increasing susceptibility to germs. The
same thing can happen in a car. Dehydration is also a serious
challenge to the health of your kidneys. Drink lots of water,
avoiding carbonated beverages and alcohol. Some travelers take
along a washcloth that they dampen and place over their face
before snoozing on long flights.
- Itís wise to carry written information about any medical
condition or allergies you may have in case you are unable to
give instructions yourself. A Medic Alert bracelet or an information
card explaining your condition and required treatment can save
- When packing medications, pack them in more than one place
in case a bag is lost. Be sure to keep some in your carry-on
- Insulin can be damaged by extreme temperatures, like those
possible in the unpressurized baggage area of a plane. It travels
best in a carry-on bag. Always inspect your insulin before injection.
- A cool thermos or insulated bag can help keep insulin from
being affected by hot weather.
- Take more medical supplies on a trip than you expect to
use. If some are damaged or lost, you should still have enough.
- All travelers should carry some healthful snacks on flight
in case meals are delayed or cancelled. This is especially important
for diabetics, who need to eat at regular intervals.
- Changing time zones can wreak havoc on a diabeticís meal
schedule. Always carry snacks and supplies with you while touring
in case your groupís scheduled mealtime doesnít coincide with
your needs. But do try to keep your medication, meal, and snack
times as regular as possible, based on your home time zone.