How can travel broaden you if you’re flat on your back? Getting sick during a vacation can do more than spoil the trip. It can also lead to long-term negative health consequences. Diseases that have been eliminated in the United States are still alive and well in certain countries. And the water supply isn’t always safe for drinking.
Fortunately, people can protect themselves against illness when they travel. The Maimonides Travel Medicine Service—overseen and staffed entirely by infectious disease physicians—offers the following trip tips, which can help reduce the likelihood of serious illness while you’re abroad.
1. FOLLOW FOOD AND WATER SAFETY GUIDELINES.
To avoid “traveler’s diarrhea,” be careful about what you drink and eat. Remember the rule: “Peel it, boil it, cook it or forget it.” Do not drink tap water, and drink only bottled water that has been microfiltered. All carbonated beverages, pasteurized juices, alcoholic beverages and boiled liquids are fi ne. You should take along appropriate antidiarrheal agents, as well as antibiotics to be taken only if diarrhea develops.
2. BE SURE TO USE INSECT REPELLENTS PROPERLY.
Use those containing DEET on exposed skin and those containing permethrin on outer clothing.
3. PREVENT MALARIA.
You’ll need to consult a professional, since the proper agents are different depending on where you travel and even in malaria-endemic countries, some areas are malaria-free. A physician can prescribe medication to reduce your chances of contracting malaria if you’re traveling in a high-risk area.
4. MAKE SURE YOU’RE UP-TO-DATE ON “ROUTINE” IMMUNIZATIONS.
These immunizations include (when appropriate) tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chickenpox, infl uenza and pneumococcal disease. Also, proof of yellow fever vaccination, using a specifi c form and stamp, is required for entry into some countries, and some require it for all travelers from endemic areas. This vaccination can only be given by specially certified providers, like those found in the Travel Medicine department at Maimonides. Many vaccines take at least four weeks to achieve maximum effectiveness, so be sure to plan ahead.
The Maimonides Travel Medicine Service offers pre-travel examinations, immunizations, country-specifi c medical information and post-trip care. They can even give you the telephone numbers of local medical providers. They’re open Monday through Friday. All patients are seen by appointment, and evening appointments are available. If you’re traveling abroad this summer, you would be very wise to make Maimonides a part of your itinerary. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (718) 283-8578 or visit the Maimonides Travel Medicine Page.