How can my family stay illness-free during vacations?

Prior to going on your vacation, schedule a visit with your physician or a travel clinic to see if you need any vaccinations or prophylactic medications while on your trip. For countries outside North America, avoid tap water, drinks with ice in them, and thin-skinned vegetables or fruits (such as tomatoes or apples). In areas known to have malaria, certain medications, insect repellant with DEET, nets around the bed you will sleep in, and long-sleeved shirts and pants are recommended. Also consider the use of sunscreen and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
There are millions of vacation destinations to visit this summer and thousands of sights to see, but there is one surefire way to ruin your trip — getting sick. Although you may not be thinking about viruses and bacterial infections when you plan your trip, there are a few nasty bugs you should be aware of as you pack your bags.

Dr. Scott Weisenberg, director of the Travel Medicine Clinic of the Division of Infectious Diseases at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, offers the following step-by-step guide to help you stay healthy and active in whatever corner of the world you may find yourself this summer.

  • Get vaccinated. See a doctor experienced in travel medicine to determine if you need vaccines against illnesses such as yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A.
  • Get medications. If you are traveling to a malaria-containing region, medications can significantly reduce the chance of infection with this serious disease.
  • Avoid blood clots. If you are on a long flight you should try to stand up and walk and/or stretch for several minutes every hour or so, to avoid blood clots that can form in your legs.
  • Control jet lag. Eat light during your flight, and avoid alcohol and caffeine. Sunlight exposure after arrival can help ease adjustment to the new time zone.
  • Stay hydrated. Travelers frequently become dehydrated during long flights. Drink fruit juices or bottled water to prevent dehydration during your flight.
  • Don't drink the water. It is wise to heed this common warning and stay away from drinking tap water while on vacation. It is also important to refrain from using tap water in any way, including: in ice, in mixed drinks, and brushing your teeth with tap water.
  • Avoid rare or raw meat or fish. Eat meat that is thoroughly cooked. You should also steer clear of raw vegetables including salads and fruits that do not have a thick, disposable outside covering.
  • Be wary of local dairy products. You should be cautious about dairy products sold by small, independent vendors, and avoid any dairy products that seem to have been left out in the sun.
  • Don't get bitten. Use insect repellents to reduce the chances of infection with insect-transmitted diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Use a bed net at night if you are in a malaria region.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.