Health Concerns for Overseas Travel

image of travel documentsThis is vacation season, so last week I published Flying with Medical Devices and Supplies. It was a guest article by Marlo Sollitto about how to get through TSA screening, but it just covered domestic travel.

If you’re going overseas, there are many other things to know, as my wife reminds me often. She’s a registered nurse and travel specialist at ADC Travel Clinic. It’s a fun job since she provides pre-travel advice and vaccinations for international travel and talks to people going on fun trips for business or pleasure. Her advice varies considerably by region, which is why it’s important to see someone like her before leaving.

An ABC News special report last week caught my attention since it covered health concerns for foreign travel. The video is embedded below, but here are some highlights:

  • Health concerns and disease varies considerably by region, which is why you should seek travel advice at least four weeks prior to departure.
  • What if you get Hurt in an accident or seriously ill? Medical care overseas is very different than here in the U.S., so think about how you’d get back – before you need to. Contacting the U.S. Embassy can help, but also consider buying travel insurance. It can cover the expense of an air ambulance if needed. When Healthcare Hits Home is a story of someone getting emergency surgery while traveling overseas.
  • Avoid Montezuma’s Revenge, or Traveler’s Diarrhea. Take diarrhea medication, and drink only bottled water. Use bottled water for brushing teeth too, and avoid ice cubes. If you eat fresh fruit, peal it yourself. If you do get diarrhea, drink an electrolyte formula like Gatorade, which is often available locally.
  • Take Prescription Medicines with you (ALL of them, in a carry-on bag) since they may not be available locally. And take only US-made meds since 30% of foreign meds are counterfeit.
  • Personal Health Records. You may not have easy access to Electronic versions, so it’s a good idea to take a printed list of all of your prescription med, immunizations, health history, insurance policies, and telephone contacts.
  • Ban the Bugs. Insects, especially mosquitoes, can spread disease so take good bug repellant and protective clothing.
  • Vaccinations against Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, Typhoid and other illness depend on region, and local governments may require proof of immunization.
  • Other Meds to consider include pills for Malaria, motion sickness and altitude sickness.
  • Language Barrier. Communicating with local government and health officials is difficult when there’s a language barrier, so make sure you have a way translate, whether it’s a friend back home or a service you can call or an app for your smartphone.
  • Telephone & Internet Communication can be a life saver, and there are many apps designed specifically for international travel, including language translators. The camera on your smartphone may come in handy if you get a weird rash or injury. You may be able to email a picture of it to your physician at home for his diagnostic opinion.
  • Getting Phone & Internet Service. Make sure your electronic devices work abroad by checking them out ahead of time. Just do a search with Google. Once you’re there, finding Internet access may be a challenge, but you can usually find a local Internet Café.

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