The mobility of our society has contributed to an increased opportunity for travel souvenirs that nobody wants, exposure to infectious diseases. Important basic non-prescription measures such as hand hygiene; cough etiquette and insect protection are effective measures to prevent exposure to various diseases. Travelers should also plan ahead and review region-specific topics such as food and water safety, recommended vaccinations, and pre-exposure prophylaxis for travelers to countries where rabies may be a risk or when antimalarial drugs are indicated.
General Tips for Travel
- Clean your hands often. Use soap and water if hands are visibly soiled, otherwise it’s okay to use an alcohol based hand gel. Important times to clean your hands are: After using the bathroom; before preparing or eating food; after changing a diaper, after blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing; after caring for a sick person; and after touching an animal.
- Prevent spreading germs to others.
- Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Immediately put used tissue in the waste basket, then clean your hands.
- If a tissue isn’t available, use your upper sleeve to cover your cough or sneeze.
- When you cough or sneeze into your hands, clean your hands immediately. Otherwise you will spread germs to everything and everyone you touch.
- Be aware that others’ respiratory secretions may contain an infectious disease. Stay 3 to 6 feet away from coughing and sneezing people if possible.
- Environmental objects and surfaces that appear clean can have disease-causing germs. Your best defense it to clean your hands frequently.
- Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water to help maintain your immune system.
- Be careful around all wild animals and domestic animals unfamiliar to you. After any animal bite, cleanse the wound with soap and water and consult a clinician for further evaluation. Enjoy wild animals with your eyes, not by touching them.
- Determine if you are current on your vaccinations and inquire about any recommended vaccinations for your travel destination. This includes tetanus, hepatitis A, etc.
- If you have a special health condition (e.g. diabetes or seizure disorder), wear a medical alert tag such as a bracelet or carry the information with you for emergencies.
- Put together a Traveler’s Health Kit including:
- Enough of your prescribed medications and any medications your physician recommends (including over-the-counter medications) to last through your trip
- Insect repellant, ideally containing DEET or Picardin
- Alcohol-based hand gels containing 60 to 95% alcohol to clean your hands when soap and clean water are not readily available
- If any health issues arise during your trip, contact the local health jurisdiction.
- If you become ill after you return home, inform your doctor where you traveled.
Plan ahead for healthy and safe international travel. Living conditions, standards of sanitation and hygiene vary throughout the world. Travelers to third world countries are at greater risk than those who travel to developed countries, but anyone planning overseas travel should examine the health conditions and plan accordingly.
- Get all recommended travelers’ immunizations in plenty of time before your trip (as early as 3 months prior to your trip).
- Use recommended protective medications for travel. Some medications need to be started before you travel.
- CDC’s Travelers’ Health Website is recommended for current information on diseases, medications, vaccinations, local clinics, and travel notices. This information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/.
- Select food with care, particularly in areas where hygiene and sanitation are poor. All raw foods are subject to contamination, therefore avoid salads, uncooked vegetables, and unpasteurized milk and milk products such as cheese. Eat only food that has been cooked and is still hot, or fruit that has been washed in clean water and then peeled personally.
- Avoid drinking untreated water, particularly in areas where hygiene and sanitation are poor. Drink bottled water to avoid dehydration.
Travel Health Fact Sheets and Information:
Travel Health Fact Sheet (48k.pdf)
External Travel Health Resources:
Traveler's Health (CDC)