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MISSION READY: Staying Healthy While Traveling Abroad

worldmap1Are you or someone you know traveling overseas for a mission trip, adoption, vacation or work? Preparation in advance can make all the difference in a healthy trip.

Keeping your immune system healthy by eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep before you travel will go a long way. Finalizing travel plans and acquiring essential items for your trip well in advance will help with stress levels as high stress can contribute to a compromised immune system. Weekly Vitamin B12 shots before your trip can also help to keep your immune system healthy.

Ideally, you should schedule an appointment for travel immunizations with a travel medicine clinic 4 to 6 months before your trip. Many vaccines take time to become fully effective and some must be given in a series of shots over a period of days, weeks or even months. You will also need to be up to date on your routine immunizations, and Flu vaccines are recommended before traveling abroad. Any full service travel clinic certified by the CDC to administer Yellow Fever Vaccine should provide you with regional specific health information and recommendations for the area you will be visiting. If your trip is 4 weeks away or less, it’s even more important to visit a travel medicine clinic to obtain critical medical and travel information. Most travel medicine clinics also offer preventative medications, prescriptions and travel products as well as post-travel illness testing and evaluations.

Be sure to pack sufficient supplies of prescription medications in your carry-on baggage in their original bottles with your name on them as well copies of your prescriptions. Also, take any over the counter drugs you may need such as pain relievers, cold medicines, anti-acids, etc. Avoid mosquito and other insect bites by using Deet (30%-50%) repellants and wearing Permethrin treated clothing.  If possible, stay indoors between dusk and dawn. Taking a first aid kit stocked with adequate supplies is always a good idea.

Be aware that traveler’s diarrhea is the most common illness that affects nearly half of all travelers to developing countries. Avoid drinking water that is not from a sealed bottle, even to brush your teeth. Avoid ice which is made from local tap water. Do not drink milk or eat dairy products as they may not be pasteurized. Avoid salads (which may have been washed with contaminated water). Eat fruit with a thick skin that you have peeled. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, seafood or vegetables. Be sure your foods and hot beverages are served piping hot and do not eat food from street vendors.  Wash hands with soap frequently and carry hand sanitizer at all times.

Julie Tomsett is a published author and the office manager at GracePointe Healthcare; a direct-pay family practice and full service travel medicine clinic located in Cool Springs.

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