New Englanders consider themselves a healthy bunch, which they ascribe to clean living, brisk northern air, vigorous exercise (leaf raking, snow shoveling, and so on), and few stresses apart from realizing that Tom Brady can’t play for the Patriots forever. You shouldn’t face any serious health risks when traveling in the region.Exceptions? Well, yes -- you may find yourself at higher risk when exploring the outdoors, particularly in the backcountry. A few things to watch for when venturing off the beaten path:

Regional Health Concerns

  • Poison ivy: This sometimes shiny, three-leafed plant is common throughout the region. If you touch it, you could develop a nasty, itchy rash.  
  • Giardia: That crystal-clear stream might look pure, but it could be contaminated with animal feces. When ingested by humans, Giardia cysts can cause diarrhea and weight loss. Carry your own water for day trips, bring a filter to treat water, boil your water, or treat it with iodine pills.
  • Lyme disease: Lyme disease has been a growing problem in New England since 1975, when it was first identified in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Left untreated, it can damage the heart and nervous system. The disease is transmitted by deer ticks, which are difficult to see—but check your socks and body daily anyway (ideally with a partner). If you develop a bull’s-eye-shaped rash, 3 to 8 inches in diameter (the rash may feel warm but usually doesn’t itch), see a doctor right away. Other symptoms may include muscle and joint pain, fever, or fatigue.
  • Rabies: Transmitted through animal saliva and especially prevalent in skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes, rabies is almost always fatal if left untreated in humans. Infected animals tend to display erratic and aggressive behavior; the best advice is to avoid wild animals. If you’re bitten, wash the wound and immediately seek medical attention.
  • West Nile Virus: Although the number of human cases reported in New England is small and this mosquito-borne illness is rarely fatal, precautions against mosquito bites are a smart move. Avoid standing water, and wear long sleeves and pants, socks, and insect repellant when outdoors, particularly between dusk and dawn.

Those planning longer excursions into the backcountry of New England might find a compact first-aid kit with basic salves and medicines very handy to have along. Towns and villages throughout the region are reliably stocked with pharmacies, chain grocery stores, and Wal-Mart-type big-box stores where you can stock up on common medicines (such as calamine lotion and aspirin) to cope with minor ailments along the way.

What to Do if You Get Sick Away from Home

If you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your doctor before your departure. Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise, they won't make it through airport security. Visitors from outside the U.S. should carry generic names of prescription drugs. For U.S. travelers, most reliable healthcare plans provide coverage if you get sick away from home. Foreign visitors may have to pay all medical costs upfront and be reimbursed later.

If you get sick, consider asking your hotel concierge to recommend a local doctor -- even his or her own. You can also try the emergency room at a local hospital. Many hospitals also have walk-in clinics for emergency cases that are not life-threatening; you may not get immediate attention, but you won't pay the high price of an emergency room visit. There are large, good hospitals in all cities in this region, as well as in many small towns. Check with your hotel or the local tourism office if you're concerned about proximity to hospitals.


New England -- with the notable exception of parts of Boston and Hartford -- boasts some of the lowest crime rates in the country. The odds of anything bad happening during your visit here are very slight. But all travelers are advised to take the usual precautions against theft, robbery, and assault.

Travelers should avoid any unnecessary public displays of wealth. Don't bring out fat wads of cash from your pocket, and save your best jewelry for private occasions. If you are approached by someone who demands money, jewelry, or anything else from you, do what most Americans do: Hand it over. Don't argue. Don't negotiate. Just comply. Afterward, immediately contact the police by dialing tel. 911 from almost any phone.

The crime you're statistically most likely to encounter is theft of items from your car. Don't leave anything of value in plain view, and lock valuables in your trunk.

Late at night, you should look for a well-lighted area if you need gas or you need to step out of your car for any reason.

Take the usual precautions against leaving cash or valuables in your hotel room when you're not present. Many hotels have safe-deposit boxes. Smaller inns and hotels often do not, although it can't hurt to ask to leave small items in the house safe.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.