Travel Medicine

Your Health: Destination Travel

By Dr. Vibha Patel


Destination weddings and overseas honeymoon trips are always popular. Traveling to a new country can be an exciting adventure. The interest in them is counterbalanced by recent news of mosquito-borne diseases. To make the most of your trip here are some basic precautions to consider prior to traveling that will prevent illness and make your trip more enjoyable.


Important Websites

One of the first steps to prepare for the overseas trip is to check two sites: the Center for Disease Control ( and the US State Department ( The CDC site has many topics to help prepare for travel to any destination in the world, including vaccinations that are required or recommended prior to travel; special considerations for pregnant women, children, the elderly; considerations for travelers with chronic medical problems; cruise ship travel, and many more. The US State Department site lists all travel advisories and recommendations by destination. The State Department site also has a section on how to contact n doctor or hospital abroad, contacting the American Citizens Service Unit at the local US Embassy or Consulate office, and assistance with finding an air/ambulance evacuation service.


Preventive Medicine

Prior to departing for your trip, schedule a visit with your primary care provider to review and update any routine vaccinations. The major routine vaccinations are MMR (measles/mumps/rubella), DTAP/Tdap (diphtheria/tetatnus/acellular pertussis), Varicella (chicken pox), polio, and flu vaccination. In addition, getting vaccinations for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B prior to travel should also be considered. Make sure that all of your prescription medications are in the original containers, and that you have the prescriptions with you, in case customs officials request the appropriate paperwork. Also check with the country’s embassy site for any medications that may be illegal to bring into the country.


The Zika Virus

With the recent emergence in the rise of mosquito borne infections, such as the Zika virus, be prepared by taking adequate clothing and mosquito repellent. The CDC recommends using a repellent containing no less than 20% DEET compound and applying it on a regular basis. If traveling to an area with mosquitos wear protective clothing (lightweight, with long sleeves and long pants). An additional precaution is to spray the clothing with permethrin (an insect repellent) spray beforehand. You can also ask if mosquito netting is available.


Other Considerations

If you are traveling to a region with a lot of sun exposure, be sure to use sunscreen with a minimum of 15 SPF or higher, applying repeatedly as needed, especially if you are swimming or participating in water activites (If you are concerned about protecting our oceans, you can use marine safe sunscreens, such as Badger brand.).


And, of course, be prudent with food products. Do not drink tap water or drink items that contain ice made with tap water if you are unsure of the water quality. Only eat food that has been completely cooked. Before eating, make sure you wash your hands with clean water or carry hand sanitizer (containing a minimum of 60% alcohol).


These simple measures should help ensure healthy and happy travel for you and your guests. Bon voyage!

Dr. Vibha Patel is board certified in Family Medicine. This information is based upon general guidelines and is not meant to supplant recommendations by your personal physician. You should consult your physician before beginning any weight management or exercise program.

Images courtesy of El Conquistador