March 10, 2018

International Travel: What you need to know

By Brad Stapley, Pharm D – Owner, Stapley Pharmacy

Spending time overseas this summer? Follow these tips to reduce your risk of getting sick abroad.

Cold temperatures are a distant memory, school is almost out for the year, and it is time to relax and enjoy the warm, sunny weather of a tropical location. If your summer plans include international travel, we have some guidelines that may help your preparation.

Planning ahead can help you reduce your risk of getting sick or hurt while traveling.

  • The Center for Disease Control recommends that you visit your doctor or travel medicine specialist ideally 4-6 weeks before your trip, to get any vaccines or medicines that you may need. Each destination has its own specific recommendations so check with the CDC for necessary precautions.
  • Contact your physician, clinic or pharmacist 72 hours in advance so they can order and receive the necessary vaccinations.
  • Set an appointment so you don’t miss getting your travel vaccines in time for optimum protection.
  • Check for current travel health notices. These notices will inform you about health issues related to any disease outbreaks, special event or large gatherings, and post natural disaster concerns at your destination.
  • Pack a travel health kit. Your kit should include prescription(s) and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra), alcohol-based sanitizer, first-aid supplies, health insurance card, and insect repellent. Don’t forget to add an anti-diarrheal and antacid. You should also have a copy of your prescriptions just in case you are delayed.

During your trip

Contaminated Food: Many travel destinations may have contaminated food or drinks. These items can cause traveler’s diarrhea and other diseases. Reduce your risk of contamination by eating only food that is cooked and served hot. Only drink water sodas, or sports drinks that are bottled and sealed or very hot coffee or tea.

Sunscreen: Protect yourself from the sun by wearing an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays when enjoying outdoor activities, such as spending time on the beach, hiking, or swimming in a pool.

Insect bites: There are many popular summer vacation spots that still have a risk of the Zika virus. Zika is primarily spread by mosquitoes. The CDC recommends that travelers take great care to protect themselves from mosquito bites. On exposed skin, use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Don’t assume that the bug repellent will be available at your destination. Pack plenty for the duration of your stay.

Always apply sunscreen first, then your EPA-registered insect repellent

After your trip

If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. Tell your medical provider about your travel, including where you went and what you did. Make sure to tell you doctor if you were bitten, scratched or injured, and if you were around any sick people while traveling. Your doctor will need this information to exclude certain infections and avoid unnecessary testing.


Remember, your pharmacist is your most accessible medical professional.

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