|
The Clay County Advocate - Press-Flora, IL
  • Things to do before traveling abroad


  • Most travelers know it’s a safe bet to avoid tap water when they are visiting foreign countries. However, not all travelers think to follow this advice to its logical end.

    • email print
  • Most travelers know it’s a safe bet to avoid tap water when they are visiting foreign countries. However, not all travelers think to follow this advice to its logical end.
    To avoid tap water when they are visiting foreign countries means:
    - You shouldn’t brush your teeth with tap water.
    - You shouldn’t open your mouth in the shower.
    - You shouldn’t wash your vegetables in the sink.
    - You shouldn’t use ice in your drinks.
    And it’s these other exposures to tap water — exposures travelers may not even register in their day-to-day activities — that can lead to the most common illnesses while traveling, such as traveler’s diarrhea.
    Learn the facts 
    If you talk to University of Illinois Springfield health services director Lynn Price before leaving for your trip, you may reconsider ever leaving your house again. Price counsels students at UIS about international travel, and she’s aware that the information she offers about how to avoid illness abroad can be daunting.
    “What I always preface my programs or consultations with is, ‘By the time I’m through, you’re going to be scared witless, and you’re not going to want to go, but we haven’t lost anyone yet,’” she says. “It’s better to have the consultation and know what you need to know.”
    The first step, Price says, is to consult with professionals at an international travel clinic. A general practitioner may not carry all the vaccines a traveler needs to visit a particular location.
    Know the area
    Travelers should also know details about the country to which they’re traveling.
    “Do they need malaria protection? Do they need a TB (tuberculosis) test before they go? Do they need typhoid protection? You need to know what diseases are prominent in those countries,” Price says. Find this type of information at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
    Price recommends travelers get the flu vaccine because other countries have different flu seasons than the United States, and a traveler may arrive during that country’s season.
    Price also suggests buying travelers insurance. She says travelers injured in a third-world country would most likely want to be taken to a hospital with the same medical standards as U.S. hospitals — but that may require a long trip. Travelers insurance would help pay the cost of transportation.
    “In most cases, the country will not accept U.S. health insurance, and they will want you to pay for your hospital visit before you leave,” Price says. “Also, if you’re killed while traveling abroad, it can be very difficult and expensive to bring the body back to this country, which is one more reason to get traveler’s insurance,” she says.
    Page 2 of 3 - Prepare your medications
    Another issue of which to be aware: prescription medicine. Price says you should always carry prescriptions in the original container in your carry-on luggage, along with a note from the physician who prescribed the medication stating you are under his or her care and that the doctor prescribed the drug for you.
    Keep over-the-counter medication in its original container and in your carry-on luggage.
    “(Travelers) shouldn’t get prescriptions in foreign pharmacies,” Price says. “The quality is not the same. The dosage may not be the same. They don’t have the FDA watching over them. You may think you’re getting penicillin, but it may not be the right amount.”
    If you absolutely have to replace your prescription medication while overseas, check with the U.S. embassy in that country to find out if there are any reputable pharmacies.
    Also, don’t pet the animals.
    “They don’t have rabies precautions in many countries. That animal could look healthy but could be incubating rabies,” she says. “It gets difficult when people see monkeys that are really cute and they want to climb on you and pick at your hair. Well, they could also carry rabies.”
    Choose food wisely
    Travelers should also consider what they choose to eat.
    “Buffets are bad news,” Price says.
    Some places don’t have the same public health standards as the U.S., so food vendors can set up anywhere, and the food may not be kept at a proper temperature.
    Avoiding the water isn’t just good advice when it comes to consuming it. Price suggests avoiding foot baths and swimming, too.
    Traveling with children requires its own set of precautions. Dr. Shingo Chihara, assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, says that by the age of 9 months, children can get most of the immunizations an adult would need when traveling abroad.
    One exception, however, is the vaccine for Japanese encephalitis. A vaccine approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration was only approved for use in adults.
    Get your vaccines
    Chihara also mentioned getting a rabies vaccine because children are more likely to be attacked by dogs. Parents should decide whether to get the rabies vaccine for their children before they leave the U.S. or whether to wait until a rabies threat presents itself.
    “It depends on how close the travelers are (going to be) to a clinic that can prescribe a vaccine after an exposure to rabies,” Chihara says.
    Getting the vaccine before leaving the country requires a family to visit the clinic three times.
    Page 3 of 3 - “If parents are interested, they have to come at least a month or two before they travel, so that it’s complete before they go. Unfortunately, many travelers come at the last minute,” Chihara says.
    Another tip both Price and Chihara offer for international travelers: plan ahead.
    “Travelers should have immunizations at least two weeks before traveling in order to let the body build up the immunity,” Chihara says.
    Chihara also warns travelers to be aware of insect-born diseases. He says to take insect repellant and to sleep with a mosquito net. He also recommends Permethrin, a repellant that can be applied to clothing and mosquito nets and lasts for two weeks.
        • »  EVENTS CALENDAR