This evening, I will be leaving for West Africa. It is a trip I have made several times before and I’d like to think I have the packing and preparation down to a science.
Depending on your destination, pre-trip travel health planning may be as simple as packing a few band-aids. If you are planning on doing a significant amount of camping or hiking, however, or if you are traveling to developing world areas, your planning may be more involved. This checklist should prove helpful for a variety of trips.
Research your destination and visit a travel health clinic
Some basic research will help you determine what travel vaccinations you may need and what destination-specific health concerns may exist.
- Start at the the CDC’s destinations page to get an overall picture
- Check the WHO disease outbreak page and the Foreign Travel Advisory Service to determine the latest travel health news
- Check to see whether you can drink the water at
canidrinkthewater.org(this has been down for a while now. Does anyone know of a similar resource? If not, you can always search for your destination directly, as in “can you drink the tap water in X” in google).
The second half of your research occurs at a travel health clinic where a doctor can make specific recommendations and you can get any vaccinations you may need. See our article on travel vaccinations for information on finding a travel health clinic.
Get recommended vaccinations and medication
Travel immunizations aren’t just recommended – some countries actually require vaccinations for entry. As far as medication goes, you can buy most of it abroad, often without a prescription and for much lower prices, but you’ll want to start your trip with some of everything. In the case of malaria prophylactics, you will need to start taking the medication before your trip begins.
Take out travel health insurance
If you already have health insurance, check to see whether you are covered abroad. If you’re not, you need to take out a travel policy. You can search for travel insurance with sites like insuremytrip.com. Think about where you will be and what activities you are doing. For example, if you are going to be in rural areas doing adventure sports, you should take out insurance that includes a medical evacuation component. We personally recommend World Nomads for a number of reasons. See our World Nomads review for more information.
Pack any travel health related products you may need
If the water is unsafe to drink, will you filter and/or treat the water yourself? If so, have a look at our 4 ways to treat water and our SteriPEN Traveler review. Make sure you also have a first aid kit, oral rehydration salts, and we’d also recommend a hand sanitizing gel or some wipes. See our post on 7 travel health products for more recommendations.
Create a document describing allergies and medical conditions
You should keep a document with you at all times that describes any allergies and/or medical conditions you may have. For example, I am allergic to amoxicillin. The one and only time I took this antibiotic, it nearly killed me. You will also want to include your blood type on this document, just in case. If you are in an accident in which you are knocked unconscious, this information will prove valuable to anyone that is treating you.
How about you? Is there anything else that you would put on a pre-trip travel health checklist? Let us know in the comments.
Photo credit: Flickr user Mat Honan