Spring break, March break, reading week, whatever you call it, it's upon us. Traveling is big all year, but if you live in colder parts of the world, February and March travel are big. Really big. People are fed up with the cold and gray weather and they're in search for something fun to do in the sun.
We can't prevent all illnesses from occurring, but there are many that we can avoid through vaccinations and using caution while abroad. Vaccinations are vital for some parts of the world and some countries won't let you in unless you can prove that you have been vaccinated. If you are in Canada, check this Health Canada link to see which vaccinations you should have before travel. If you are in the US, check out the CDC site. The World Health Organization (WHO) also has travel health information.
You should speak with your healthcare provider or visit a tropical disease clinic at least three months before your trip because some vaccines must be given in stages over the course of a few weeks.
Now you've had your necessary vaccinations and you're on your way. How do you stay healthy? A lot of it is common sense. Washing your hands at home is one of the most important things you can do to help spread infection. The same holds true while you are on vacation and maybe more so as you may be touching more things than you might at home. Access to soap and water may not be always easy, so be sure to carry waterless hand cleansers with you so you can wash your hands frequently.
Traveling, particularly by air, can be dehydrating. Be sure you drink plenty of water to prevent drying out. Part of your defense against viruses, like colds, is your nose and its moist membranes. If your body dries out, the membranes can crack, allowing viruses to enter your body, making you sick.
If you are traveling in less developed countries, there are some rules to follow regarding your food and drink. In order to prevent illness, drink only drinks that come to you in a sealed bottle. Be sure the bottle is sealed or else tap water may have been used. Don't accept ice cubes as they may have been made using tap water. Do not eat any fruit that you can't peel and be sure that all cooked food you eat is thoroughly cooked - well done.
If you take any prescription medications or regular over-the-counter medications, be sure to bring a full supply and some extra for the duration of the trip. Keep them with you, in carry-on luggage if you fly, so you know where they are. Not all medications are available everywhere and you could run into trouble if you run out.
It's also a good idea to bring along a fresh prescription with you, just in case something happens with your supply. Although it's not likely that a local pharmacy will/can fill your prescription, a doctor will be able to use the information to write a local prescription.
What to do if you become ill
The CDC has good information here regarding what to do if you do become ill while traveling, so it doesn't make sense to write it out again. Just click here for their advice. If you are from another country, just replace their references to U.S. embassies and consulates for your own country's.
If you are going away, playing it safe is not only smart, it's vital.