University Health Services

Travelers' Health Information

The following information is to help you prepare for your upcoming trip. Some of the information provided will be useful while you are in country. Travel is exciting, but your health and wellness with travel is very important.

If you are a diabetic, take certain medications (Coumadin), or are allergic (life-threatening) to any medications or envenomations (bee stings) please wear a medical alert bracelet or make sure you have a card in your wallet as a medical alert.

If you take any medications on a regular basis, please make sure you have an adequate supply with you for the duration of the trip. Do not pack medications in luggage, unless they are liquid due to flight regulations. Please pack your medications in a carry-on bag; this will insure you are not without your medications if your luggage is lost. All prescription medicine should be in their original containers with intact labels. If you are currently prescribed injectable medications (insulin pens, epi-pens) or controlled substances, have a note from your doctor listing these medications with a doctor’s signature.

It may be advisable to take a prescription antibiotic with you for self treatment of severe diarrhea. Also, if you are going to Costa Rica you may wish to start medicine for the prevention of Malaria, such as doxycycline or chloroquine, prior to your trip. Malaria prevention medicines must be started 4 days prior to departure, taken daily while abroad, and then continued for 1-4 weeks after you arrive home.

List of over the counter medications to bring

  • Antidiarrheal medications, such as immodium
  • Antihistamine
  • Decongestant
  • Anti-motion sickness medication
  • Tylenol or ibuprofen for pain or fever
  • Throat lozenges
  • Antacids
  • Antibacterial ointment/cream- such as Neosporin
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Sleep aid
  • Water purification tablets (depending on location)
  • Saline eye drops to flush eyes, if necessary

Other health related items to bring

  • Insect repellant with DEET
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe gel or other sunburn gel
  • Digital thermometer
  • Gatorade packets to put in bottled water for rehydration
  • Basic first aid supplies or compact first aid kit (will include a first aid reference card)
  • Hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wipes

Water and Food Precautions

One of the most common ways travelers become ill is from consuming contaminated water and food. It is best to only drink bottled water and avoid ice (made from possibly contaminated water) during your trip. Drink canned or bottled (check the seal) juices. Have a bottle of water available for brushing your teeth, and don’t open your mouth in the shower. A country’s agricultural practices, such as animal habits and cleaning techniques, may have an impact on food preparation and consumption. Foods to avoid would be salads (could have been washed in contaminated water), fruits without peels/skin, uncooked meats, unpasteurized dairy products (can breed germs), and any food from a street vendor or restaurant that seems unclean. Typhoid, hepatitis A, polio, traveler’s diarrhea, and cholera are transmitted through contaminated food and water.

Prevent Insect Bites

Insects are of particular concern due to disease transmission that can occur from an insect bite. Many diseases are spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks that carry bacteria, viruses, or parasites to humans. Malaria, dengue fever, tickborne encephalitis, and leishmaniasis are several diseases spread through insect bites. It is very important to prevent the occurrence of insect bites by using an insect repellant with 30%-50% DEET every day, with reapplication as necessary. Try to use unscented soaps and lotions and avoid perfume. Always wear shoes, even if at the beach or while in the ocean, many parasites are found in soils. Also, try to wear lightweight long sleeved shirts, long pants, and shoes with socks.

Immunizations

Please check that your immunizations are up-to-date. Enclosed with this packet is the recommended adult immunization schedule from the Centers of Disease Control. It would be advisable to have a copy of your immunization records with you during travel. If you need any immunizations, please plan to see a health care provider at least 4-6 weeks before your trip. You can come to the clinic with your immunization records if you are unsure if you are up-to-date. You need to have been immunized for polio, measles/ mumps/rubella, chickenpox (varicella), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus. Please make sure your tetanus (Td) is current, with a booster within the last 10 years.

In addition to insuring your required immunizations are up to date, there are several recommended travel immunizations. These are as follows:

  • Hepatitis A- to protect against possible viral exposure through food or water, even in developed countries.
  • Hepatitis B- to protect against the transmission of this virus though exposure from blood or body fluids.
  • Typhoid- to protect against exposure from food and water, primarily in Central America.
  • Influenza- to protect against the flu.

Precautions about alcohol and other drugs

Avoid alcohol use and experimentation with other drugs while in another country. There is a definite danger with the questionable contents/ingredients included in any of these items. Do not put yourself or others at a greater risk with consumption and subsequent intoxication from alcohol and other drugs. You do not want to be in another country dealing with some of the legal implications that accompany alcohol and drug use.

More information