PIC Tips for Healthy International Travel

passports and mapsMay is among the most popular months for international travel, and if you’re planning your own exotic vacation, don’t neglect your health while trying to stuff those shirts into your luggage. Follow these five health tips for international travel to make sure your trip is a memorable one for all the right reasons.

Bring Cash – Even though we’re used to how health insurance works in our own country, it’s not the same for the rest of the world. That may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked – and a good deal more obvious if you have a medical emergency while abroad and are unable to pay for it.

Medicare, for example, does not apply overseas, and while you can purchase health insurance specifically for your travels, in many destinations cash is accepted and even preferred. However, there’s no assurance that an ATM will be nearby. Your best option is to check with your insurer if they cover medical emergencies overseas, but cash is wise to have on hand regardless. Keep in mind, though, that most governments require travelers to declare cash amounts around $5,000 to $10,000.

Know How to Properly Pack Your Medications – Along those same lines, keep in mind that you may not have ready access to any medications you need at your destination. It goes without saying that you should have an adequate supply, but to ensure that you don’t run into any problems at the airport, the State Department recommends bringing your medication in its original container as well as having ready access to copies of your prescription and any letters from the prescribing physician to help with entry.

Pack Some Wipes –Soap and water may not always be available, and wipes are an excellent alternative – especially for travel. Regular hand sanitizers may be just as effective in neutralizing germs, but wipes are more convenient in terms of packing and getting through airport security. If you’re unfamiliar with the TSA 3-1-1 rule, that’s a 3.4-ounce bottle or less of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes, one quart-sized clear, plastic, zip-top bag, one bag per passenger. That rule doesn’t apply to wipes but does apply to liquid hand sanitizers, so save yourself some space for toothpaste and shampoo, and load up on wipes instead.

Stay Up to Date on Physicals and Vaccinations – Vaccinations are required for entry in some countries, and you may be required to show an International Certificate of Vaccination. The CDC provides a simple guide to health risks, broken down by country, along with the recommended vaccines.

Similarly, you can also study up on additional risks of note for your physical. For example, did you know there’s a high risk of sun exposure in Antarctica? Or, if you plan to make a pilgrimage to the Vatican, you should vaccinate yourself against rabies? Or to choose one of the U.S.’s most popular tourist destinations, Mexico, you should know that many cities have a high altitude, and that’s good information for your physical evaluator to know.

Drink Water – The CDC notes that while tap water can be risky, depending on your destination, you can disinfect it by boiling, filtering, or chemical treatment. Bottled water is usually the better choice, but beware that some vendors may be peddling tap water that’s “factory-sealed” with glue. In such cases, it may be preferable to choose sparkling water, as the carbonated bubbles are proof of a factory seal. And If you’re not aware of the benefits of drinking water, be sure to read our post.

Hopefully, this shortlist will save you some time, and to save even more, visit your nearest Physicians Immediate Care Clinic or book online for those immunizations, physicals, and more. And share with us your own health tips for international travel – we’d love to hear them!