"One of the most important reasons for planning ahead is to ensure there is time to obtain any necessary vaccinations," notes Lynn Stephens, a nurse-practitioner with the Travel Medicine Program at the UCLA Family Health Center in Santa Monica. "We recommend getting the vaccines four to six weeks before travel to allow time for them to take effect and for patients to get over any side effects they might experience from the vaccines.”
"It’s important to be aware of everything you eat and drink," Stephens says. Travelers to less-developed parts of the world should stick with bottled water and, where it isn’t available, use filtering devices and tablets or bring the water to a boil. Avoid uncooked vegetables and fresh fruits that don’t have thick rinds or peels. In case these efforts fail, people are sometimes given a prescription for antibiotics and are advised to stay hydrated. “As long as you can keep fluid down, the risk is minimal,” Dr. Rubin says. In more serious cases, patients can be referred to local healthcare providers.
Sometimes there are special concerns for the youngest and oldest travelers. Parents are advised not to take the youngest children to certain parts of the world if they are not old enough to have had all of their immunizations. For toddlers and young school-age children, watching what they eat and drink is paramount. Children are at greater risk from diarrheal diseases and malaria, so taking protective measures, including ensuring proper hydration, is particularly important. For the elderly, Dr. Rubin recommends traveler’s insurance that guarantees they can be flown to a developed country if they require treatment while abroad.