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Staying Healthy While You Travel

Staying Healthy While You Travel

Most of us who have traveled out of the country for more than a few days have probably experienced some form of “Montezuma’s Revenge” (otherwise known as traveler’s diarrhea). For those who have been there, you know that such an experience has the potential to ruin an otherwise great vacation. So what are some things that you can do to stay healthy during your week, month or year away?

Make Sure You Have Some Form of Health Insurance

Many travelers tend to underestimate the importance of travel insurance. After all, if you’re traveling to a third-world country like India, healthcare and prescription medication must cost peanuts compared to the US, right? Even though that may be true, it should be the fear of a catastrophic injury or illness that should have you worried enough to get some travel insurance. If you need a life-saving operation, do you really want it to be performed in a small village in Laos or do you want the flexibility to be flown to a more civilized country for medical care? Do you want to spend the next 20 years paying off medical bills from a week-long holiday in Greece? Probably not. Check into travel insurance before you leave. If you currently have health insurance, many insurance companies automatically provide coverage while you are overseas. Make sure you research that and have important phone numbers readily accessible should you need to use any of their services while you are overseas. If you do not have a good health insurance plan, ask a travel agency about travel insurance or do some research online. Here is some info to get your started: 

Do Your Research About the Country You are Visiting

It’s important to be aware of local health information/dangers, food and beverage precautions, information about insects and pests and the availability of emergency medical care. Guidebooks are great for this information, but so is the CDC Travel Information website:

Get Your Shots

Even if the last time you can remember getting a shot is as a toddler visiting your pediatrician, don’t let your fear of shots get the best of you. There is nothing romantic about catching Yellow Fever. Many shots need to be administered at least six weeks before you travel, so visit your doctor or a travel immunization clinic way ahead of time and plan early.

Use Common Sense When Eating/Drinking in a Foreign Country

I can’t tell you how many times my parents have visited their homeland (India) and eaten carefully for an entire month, only to be seduced on the last day of their trip by an exotic fruit they fondly remember from childhood. These slip-ups have resulted in them having to endure the worst type of food poisoning hell on a 24-flight home from India. It’s never worth it. The last time this happened to me was when I let down my guard and decided to enjoy a mojito in Thailand. Really? Ice and fresh mint leaves. Bad bad idea. Here are some tips to prepare you (

•    Eat foods that are steaming hot and well-cooked, as these are usually the safest.

•    Avoid eating foods from street vendors, no matter how appetizing they look.

•    Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, and raw or uncooked seafood.

•    Peel fruits yourself.

•    Drink commercially bottled water or carbonated beverages (even if you’ve gone green at home and given up your bottled water habit, now is the not the time to take chances.)

•    Avoid ice.

•    Use bottled water when brushing your teeth.

Don’t Forget to Pack a First-Aid Kit

You’ll be glad you did when you’re stuck in a remote town in South America with no easy access to a pharmacy. Make sure to include things like:

•    Prescription medications
•    Health insurance information/travel insurance documents
•    Sunscreen
•    Insect repellent
•    Anti-diarrheal medication
•    Pain/fever medication
•    Antihistamines
•    Antacid tables
•    Motion sickness medication
•    First aid supplies such as band-aids and an antibiotic ointment

These tips are not intended to be a comprehensive list on how to stay healthy during your trip, but will hopefully serve as a good start. Stay healthy!


Great advice Mala!  I actually enjoy eating street food - but then again maybe I have an iron stomach!  However when you eat street food you at least get to watch them cook it right there in front of you, it's generally fresh ingrediants and more sanitary than a kitchen in many ways.  At a restaurant you have no idea what they are doing in that kitchen!