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Be a Happy & Healthy Traveler

With most of us working hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the idea of getting sick while traveling can understandingly give us pause.

From spending hours on a plane full of other travelers (and their germs), to dealing with unfamiliar foods and their preparations—plus different sanitation standards and exotic illnesses—it can add a whole new level of stress into travel.

But with a combination of good planning and careful practices while abroad, your next travel experience can be a safe and enjoyable event.

Steering clear of many ailments and illness while traveling starts at home:

1. Before departing on your trip, make sure you are up-to-date on check-ups—both medical and dental—as well as current on any recommended vaccinations for countries you plan to visit (if necessary).

2. Ensure you have ample supplies of all prescriptions you may need. Pack prescriptions in clearly labeled containers, so customs agents can tell what each contains.

3. Consider (seriously!) travel insurance if you are leaving the U.S. Remember, most health insurance policies only work in the U.S, and hospitals in foreign countries may require payment up front or as soon as services are rendered. Even a small injury or illness can be expensive, especially if you must alter your travel plans or return home early.

4. Pack a first aid/travel pharmacy kit. It should include medications to protect against or help treat common ailments: over-the-counter pain medications, aid for stomach/gastrointestinal issues, Band-Aids and antibacterial creams, motion sickness preventatives, and more. The CDC has a great list of suggestions to assist you.

5. Pack plenty of sanitizing hand wipes and/or anti-bacterial hand gel. These are ideal for keeping germs at bay while on-the-go.

6. And don’t forget the sunscreen. Even if not traveling to a warm-climate destination, it’s important to keep your skin protected if plans include time in the sun.

While traveling:

1. During long flights, move around often to help avoid blood clots in your legs. If the seat belt sign is off, try to get up at least once an hour to walk the length of the plane.

2. Stay hydrated (especially during flights). At your destination, know where it’s safe to drink the local water, or (if needed) avoid all local water—including ice. Most hotels offer in-room bottled water and can provide additional bottles when leaving for day trips. Bottled fruit juices, soft drinks, and commercially-bottled water are all great options.

3. Dress appropriately for hot or cold weather, or potential insects at your location.

4. Eat healthy and know your limits. Enjoying the local cuisine is a wonderful way to experience a new culture, but remember to give your stomach a break sometimes. Follow your local guide’s recommendations on small shop or street foods—as these can be a wonderful treat… or a gamble.

5. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often. Even highly developed countries have germs our bodies are not used to.

6. Get enough rest and allow your body time to adjust to new time zones, altitudes and climates.

7. If you do get an illness or injury, seek medical attention promptly. Don’t let something small grow into a larger problem that could require you to change or end your trip.