The Biggest Summer Tourist Trap: Overlooking Health and Wellness

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
July 19, 2017

It’s summertime, so it’s time for Americans to get away. This year, eight in ten folks will travel.[1]

But it’s easy for a relaxing vacation to turn into a health nightmare. Travelers could pick up a dangerous disease — or simply develop a nasty cold.

Here are a few things travelers should note.

For one, the Zika virus remains a prevalent threat, especially in some of America’s top travel destinations. Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas are all at-risk areas for Zika.[2] This year, returning travelers have contracted all but one of the 140 total cases of Zika reported in the United States.[3]

Folks vacationing abroad are also at risk of contracting diseases like yellow fever, malaria, influenza if they don’t get the right vaccinations or preventative medication.[4]

To avoid these problems, travelers should stay up to date on Zika cases and recommended vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website posts travel notices for these diseases[5] and has plenty of helpful information on its “Destinations” and “Plan for Travel” pages.[6] Americans should also be sure to pack plenty of mosquito repellant and dress in long-sleeved shirts and pants in at-risk areas.

It isn’t just these high-profile diseases that folks should pay attention to. Almost two-thirds of travelers who visit developing countries experience a health issue during their trip — everything from respiratory infections to stomach flu to infections. Some of these issues stem from poor food safety policies or contaminated water supplies.

Consuming alcohol and drugs abroad can be risky as well — especially if travelers aren’t familiar with the countries’ standards for these substances. These goods can make folks less alert and weaken the immune system.

Planes can also be incubators for illness. Research shows that up to one in five passengers feels sick just a week after their flight.[7] And since aircraft humidity can average 20 to 30 percent flying can also cause dehydration, as well as eye, skin, and mouth dryness.[8]

Thankfully, travelers can take precautions to protect their health in the air and on the ground.

They can do research about their destinations to make informed travel choices. From there, washing hands, staying hydrated, getting sleep, and avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine can help people avoid illness.[9]

To protect themselves even further, folks can visit a family physician before and after travel. They may also opt to get a medical insurance policy in case medical care is needed while traveling.

Follow this advice, and your vacation won’t be ruined by a pesky health problem.

 

[1] http://about.americanexpress.com/news/pr/2016/eight-of-ten-americans-plan-summer-getaway.aspx

[2] http://wanderingtrader.com/travel-blog/countries-americans-travel/

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/zika/reporting/2017-case-counts.html

[4] http://www.who.int/ith/other_health_risks/infectious_diseases/en/

[5] https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-information

[6] https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list ; https://www.cdc.gov/zika/prevention/plan-for-travel.html

[7] https://www.caring.com/articles/7-ways-to-avoid-getting-sick-when-you-fly

[8] https://www.bustle.com/articles/51112-5-strange-ways-airplane-travel-affects-your-body-from-headaches-to-zits

[9] https://www.smartertravel.com/2017/06/19/18-surefire-ways-get-sick-traveling/

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