Healthy travel tips
Part of ensuring you have a great summer vacation is staying healthy during your trips. Follow these three wellness tips to keep illness at bay during your travels.
- Update your vaccines: Ask your doctor if your vaccinations are up-to-date for the following:
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP)
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Influenza (seasonal flu)
Your doctor may recommend other vaccinations depending on your vacation spot. For example, if you’re taking a trip to Mexico, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines.
Talk to your doctor four to six weeks before traveling abroad to make sure you get your shots on time.
- Protect yourself from mosquitos: Malaria, dengue, chikungunya and Zika are of some of the mosquito-borne illnesses you may encounter while traveling, depending on your destination.
Zika is most common in Latin America and the Caribbean, but the CDC recently reported cases of the virus being spread locally in Miami-Dade County in Florida and in Brownsville, Texas. Zika can cause a fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle aches, headache or no symptoms at all.
Doctors typically advise pregnant women, as well as women and partners trying to become pregnant, to avoid traveling to areas with Zika outbreaks because the virus can be passed to the fetus, causing a life-long condition called microcephaly.
To avoid contracting Zika and other diseases spread by mosquitos:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks to protect your skin
- Use insect repellent containing DEET
- Avoid areas of still water, where mosquitos breed
- Make sure the windows where you’re staying have screens
- Stay in air-conditioned rooms
- Sleep with a mosquito net over your bed
Zika can also be spread through sex, so the CDC recommends wearing condoms during intercourse. Men who have traveled to an area with Zika should wear condoms for at least six months after the trip. Women who have visited high-risk Zika areas are advised to use condoms for at least eight weeks after travel.
- Sidestep stomach trouble: Stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and fever are all common symptoms of travelers’ diarrhea. It’s most often caused by eating or drinking food or water contaminated by bacteria or a virus like norovirus. To avoid traveler’s diarrhea:
- Be sure your food is fully cooked, especially meat, poultry, fish and shellfish.
- Eat fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself.
- Avoid street foods or unpasteurized dairy products.
- Don’t eat buffet items that have been sitting out at room temperature.
- Wash your hands often — especially after going to the bathroom and before eating.
- Avoid tap water; drink bottled water instead.
- Clean and disinfect the surfaces of hotel rooms with a bleach solution.
If you would like to discuss vaccinations or other strategies for healthy travel, make an appointment with a UCLA primary-care doctor.