5 Essential Health Tips for Traveling to a Developing Country

When I was in high school, I participated in a school-sponsored trip to Peru. At the time I knew virtually nothing about traveling, though I was given a few tips on bringing my medications and not drinking the water. I didn’t take these tips seriously enough, and while in Cuzco ended up with awful digestive problems that required antibiotics. I was unable to get the medication I needed for several days, when we returned to Lima.

All of this could have been avoided if I had only been more careful about what I ate and drank and had carried antibiotics with me. From this experience I learned that there are special precautions travelers need to take when traveling to a developing country.

Here are some of the most important ones.

Get Vaccinated

It is important to research the area you will be traveling to and find out if there are any special vaccinations you need. No matter where you are going, you will want to make sure you are up to date on routine vaccines like measles-mumps-rubella, polio, and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis. Having a flu shot is recommended as well.

When I visited Peru, I also needed to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. If you are traveling to a place where malaria is prevalent, you may also be advised to take medication before, during and after your trip. Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to see what vaccines and preventive medications are recommended for the area you will be visiting.

Bring All Medications With You

Given my experience in Peru, I cannot emphasize this tip enough. If you are traveling to a developing country, especially if you are away from the capital city, it is essential that you bring all the medications you need. This goes for both your regular prescriptions and medications to treat foodborne infection and any other diseases common to the area.

Before you pack, make sure all your prescriptions are current, and visit your primary care doctor or a Center for Disease Control to get any additional prescriptions. Keep your medications in your carry on bag when flying to ensure nothing gets lost in transit. While you reach your destinations, make sure you keep your medications in your purse or backpack and take them with you if you are going for any day trips or expeditions.

Stick to Bottled Water and Watch What You Eat

Drinking only bottled water is a given, but it is much more extensive than that. To follow this guideline properly means avoiding ice cubes and raw sliced vegetables and fruit. Salads should be avoided, and you should only eat fruit that can be peeled, like apples and bananas. Seafood is also best avoided, especially raw fish. And don’t forget to stick to bottled water when you are brushing your teeth, since even swallowing a tiny bit of tap water could cause digestive problems.

Buy Travel Health Insurance

If you will be out of your home country, even for a short period of time, you may want to think about buying travel medical insurance. Many US insurance plans do not offer coverage for accidents or illnesses if you are traveling out of the country. Check your insurance plan and if it will not cover you abroad consider purchasing a travel medical insurance plan. These plans will cover you if you have a medical emergency or if an evacuation is required.

Travel medical insurance plans typically reimburse you for unexpected medical or dental costs, send payments to medical facilities abroad, cover the costs of evacuation and provide emergency travel assistance services. There are three main types of travel health insurance: single trip travel medical, multi-trip travel medical, and long-term major medical. You can find more information about travel health insurance through sites like Travel Insurance Review.

Know Where to Get Medical Treatment

If you do need medical treatment while you are traveling, it is important to know where to go. Find out the address of the hospitals and health clinics in the area you will be staying and know how to get there if the need should arise. If you do purchase travel medical insurance, make sure the plan you buy includes emergency travel assistance services. These services will help you locate an appropriate medical facility to treat you or your family members.

No matter where you travel, it is important to look after your health. Travel to a developing country does have some specific considerations given that certain diseases may be common, waterborne illnesses may be a concern, and the medications may not be easily available should you need them. But by simply taking a few extra precautions, you will be able to remain healthy and to enjoy your trip.

Have other tips for staying healthy when traveling to a developing country? Tell us about them in the comments section.

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