Two-thirds of Americans are planning to get away this summer, many of whom plan to travel abroad. An overseas vacation can be the experience of a lifetime, but can also be a disaster if you get sick. "It is important to take the appropriate health precautions before leaving the country," says Dr. Edward Chapnick, Director of the Travel Medicine Service and the Division of Infectious Diseases at Maimonides. "Don't let your health be an afterthought."
Fortunately, travelers can protect themselves against illness. Before leaving for your trip, learn about your destination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization offer up-to-date travel recommendations and alerts. Country-specific medical information is also available at the Maimonides Travel Medicine Service.
Visiting your doctor before traveling is also highly recommended. That way, you can have a physical and the required immunizations, and hopefully get a “clean bill of health” before your departure. "Vaccinations take at least four weeks to achieve maximum effectiveness," says Dr. Chapnick. You should also be mindful of your state of health before flying since the recirculated air on planes can easily spread germs to other travelers. People with recent illnesses or special health needs such as pregnancy, disabilities, or serious chronic conditions may also need additional care before leaving.
Travelers should also be health conscious as they pack. Make sure to bring basic first aid supplies, a thermometer, over-the-counter cold and antidiarrheal medications, acetaminophen, soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Plan ahead for prescription medications as well as some drugs routinely prescribed in the U.S. may not be easily available abroad.
It also makes sense to pay attention to personal hygiene, especially when traveling to areas with unsafe food and water. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; wash your hands often with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer; and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, which can introduce germs. Many illnesses from simple travelers’ diarrhea to parasitic infections can be acquired by eating foreign foods. To avoid illness, travelers should select food with care.
Finally, It is important to practice healthy behavior during your trip and after you return home. In the event you become sick during a trip, Maimonides' Infectious Disease specialists can diagnose and treat many illnesses that are commonly found abroad, but rarely encountered at home. "Your health is just as important as which hotel you choose for your vacation," says Dr. Chapnick. By taking the proper precautions, you can make sure that your travels will be a healthy, enjoyable experience.
Dr. Edward Chapnick
Director, Division of Infectious Diseases
Dr. Edward Chapnick is the Director of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Dr. Chapnick has been part of Maimonides for almost three decades, previously completing both his Chief Medical Residency and Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Maimonides.
To make an appointment, call (718) 283-7492.
For more information, click here.