Health Beat: Stay healthy while traveling abroad

Photo by hxdbzxy /
Photo by hxdbzxy /

By the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Are you planning a trip to other countries? Remember: healthy travel requires planning, preparation, self-discipline, and vigilance.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sends inspectors and other employees all over the world to check that products it regulates, which are made in other countries, are legal and safe for use by U.S. consumers.

In the Guide to International Inspections, FDA advises employees on safe and healthy travel basics. Here are a few pointers that can help you stay healthy, too.

Before you go

  • Do some research. Learn about access to reliable medical care at your destination. Also read up on current events there.
  • Don’t buy medicines abroad. Don’t buy any medical product without consulting a competent health care professional.
  • Take an ample supply of medications. Keep prescription and over-the-counter medications in their original packaging to avoid problems with border officials. Carry one or two days’ worth of prescription medicine to cover unexpected delays. Consider carrying sunscreen and protection against insects, as well as treatments for the common cold; constipation; cuts, scratches, and burns; diarrhea; heartburn or indigestion; insomnia; motion sickness; allergies; nasal congestion; pain or fever; sore throat; and malaria prevention.
  • Consider altitude. Even healthy, athletic people can become ill at altitudes above 10,000 feet. Young children are especially at risk. If you’re going to high altitudes, plan to rest during the first 12 to 24 hours there to adjust to breathing in less oxygen. People with chronic heart and lung disorders should consult a physician before traveling to altitudes above 3,000 feet.

Tips for the trip

  • Exercise. During long trips, help avoid circulatory problems in your legs by standing up and walking for several minutes every hour or so.
  • Eat and drink wisely. Drink plenty of liquids. Avoid overindulgence. Too much alcohol and/or food can result in gastrointestinal problems, poor sleep, and altered moods.
  • Fight off jet lag. Minimize fatigue associated with time-zone hopping by eating normally. Try to get a good initial night’s sleep at your destination.