Stay Healthy on the Road

Tips for an Illness-Free Vacation

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You've heard the horror stories. So-and-so in accounting took a safari vacation in Africa and came back with malaria. Your neighbor's best friend had a heart attack climbing his first mountain. Your favorite hairdresser threw up for 10 days after coming back from a trek through the Amazon. 

Your quest for adventure and your personal health need not be in conflict. This checklist will help ensure that wellness and wanderlust go hand-in-hand on your next vacation.

1. Check with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for health warnings and information about the area where you'll be traveling.

2. Make an appointment for any vaccinations well in advance of departure. This allows your physician to monitor possible allergic reactions and time to recover from any soreness, fever or fatigue.

3. Make sure all your prescriptions are up to date. If you can, acquire original prescriptions or explanatory notes from the doctors who gave them to you and keep them in the same container. Some countries question prescription medications at the border and you want to have proof that your medications are medically necessary.

4. If you are going on a physically strenuous vacation, make sure your body is up to it. Go to your local gym and get in shape months before leaving -- not weeks.  Get a fitness checkup from your personal physician and a green light for the activities planned, even if your tour operator or travel planner does not require it.

5. When planning your trip with your physician, be fully up front with him or her. For instance, if you have a family history of mental illness, your doctor may recommend against taking certain anti-malarial medications.

6. Don't ignore dental health. "If you can't find potable water with which to brush your teeth in flight or on the road, at least floss," says New York dentist, Dr. Michael Margolis. Make sure your crowns and dental work are secure. Easily available dental services in developing countries may not be up to standard.

7. Take out a valid travel health care plan. Some countries actually require visitors to show proof of this on arrival, at least on paper. If you are going to a country with developing resources, ask about airlift or evacuation services.

8. Bring a first aid kit with bandages, anti-bacterial cream and plenty of antihistamines. You might not know that you're allergic to certain foreign plants or insects until it's too late.

9. Don't forget lots of sunscreen -- wherever you travel. The risk of skin cancer never goes on vacation.