Parents PACK Newsletter Feature Article | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Parents PACK

How to prepare for healthy travel

As schools let out for the summer, more people will be traveling. If your plans include international travel, some important factors should be considered not only while planning your trip, but also while you’re abroad and even once you return home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel health website is a comprehensive resource for travelers. It offers information that travelers may find useful, no matter their destination, reason for travel, or traveling companions. By choosing a destination and providing some basic information about your traveling party (e.g., whether you are traveling with children, experiencing an extended stay, traveling while pregnant, staying in a remote location, or going on a cruise), you can access detailed health recommendations and information regarding the public health situation at your destination. For example, five vaccines commonly recommended for travel to developing countries include: hepatitis A, cholera, typhoid, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis.

Besides vaccines and medications, the website offers practical information like fact sheets on smart packing, traveling with children or while pregnant, what to do if you become ill while abroad, and preparing for pre-travel doctor’s visits.

Travel notices inform travelers and healthcare professionals about local health issues related to specific destinations. These issues could arise from disease outbreaks (Ebola), special events (the Olympics), natural disasters (earthquake in Nepal) or other conditions that may affect travelers’ health, well-being and safety. Be sure to check the CDC’s travel health notices Web page before leaving for any international trip. Travel notices are categorized in three levels:

Unfortunately, sometimes more than memories can be brought back from an international trip, so it’s also important to remain vigilant about your and your family’s health once you return home. For example, symptoms like persistent diarrhea (for more than two weeks) and skin problems (rashes, fungal infections, boils, bug bites) can be fairly common after a trip. Because you may have been exposed to something during travel, it is more important to contact a doctor even if symptoms do not seem that severe. Another scenario in which you should contact a doctor even if you normally would not, is if you develop a fever within a month of returning from a country where malaria is present.

Whatever the reason may be, if you visit a doctor after returning from an international trip, be sure to share information about your recent travel. Your doctor will want to know details from your trip such as the activities you participated in, duration of your trip, where you stayed, what you ate and drank, whether you were bitten by bugs, whether you swam in freshwater, whether you were exposed to any bodily fluids, and whether you got any tattoos or piercings during your trip. These kinds of details, while they may seem unusual, will help the doctor to determine whether your illness is something that could have resulted from your recent travel.

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