Heading to Quebec City? You can likely just hop on a plane or train without a second thought. But for other destinations—many parts of Asia, Africa, South and Central America and now the Caribbean (thanks to the Chikungunya virus)—you risk your health by traveling without advance precautions. For my own recent trip to India, I learned the following tips from travel physicians and other cautious travelers.
Ask your hotel in advance whether your bed will have a mosquito net: It’s a smart precaution in those areas plagued by mosquito-born illnesses, as sprays and creams can rub off during the night.
Apply your protections in the correct order: You’ll want to put on sunblock first, and then apply mosquito repellent. Do it in reverse order and you’ll cut down, significantly, on the amount of protection you get from those blood-suckers.
Go with DEET to deter mosquitos and with a repellent that releases over time: Though some try to avoid this potent chemical, it’s the only scientifically proven method, or so say the doctors I’ve consulted, of keeping away mosquitos. You’ll find a better selection of heavy-duty repellents in outdoor gear stores (such as REI or Cabellas) than you will at your local drugstore. I’m a fan of Ultrathon, as it comes in a cream (in airport security-friendly two-ounce containers!), so you can be more precise in how and where you apply it. Most importantly, mosquitos usually love me, but they give me a wide berth when I’ve lathered myself up with Ultrathon.
Keep a record of your vaccinations: Certain medicines can interact badly with one another, and it’s possible that you may already be vaccinated against the diseases that are prevalent in the country you’ll be visiting. So be sure to keep your own record of the vaccinations you’re given so that you can be an informed participant in the process.
Be careful with items that unsanitary water may have touched as well as with the water itself: Most travelers realize that they shouldn’t drink the water in areas where it is unsafe for outsiders. But they often forget that lettuce and other vegetables and fruits will often be washed in water before being served. So avoid salads in those countries where travelers can’t drink the water, and only eat cooked vegetables and fruits you can peel yourself.
Consider Evacuation Insurance: In those countries that have substandard medical care and facilities, consider buying a policy that will cover you in the event you have to be “medivacked” out. Such “marketplace” websites as SquareMouth.com, InsureMyTrip.com and Quoteright.com allow users to compare insurance policies from a number of legitimate, well-established travel insurance companies.