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First Aid Kit

by C. Douglas Hinckley, MD, Staff Physician


For most travel, the main health risks are the same as in the United States: pre-existing conditions like heart disease or asthma; traffic, drowning, sports, falls, or other accidents; mental breakdowns; assaults; infections like sexually transmitted infections, Covid, flu, pneumonia...

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes, though, that

"destinations where accommodation is of poor quality, hygiene and sanitation are inadequate, medical services do not exist and clean water is unavailable may pose serious risks for the health of travellers."

Before you go, research risks at your destination(s). Do they have clean water? Medical services? Crime, war, political violence, or a disease outbreak? Will you be in a city? Village? In the wilds? Visiting Friends or Relatives? (VFR - it's riskier.) If places you're going seem dangerous, or if your mental or physical health isn't good enough right now, you can rethink your itinerary or go later.

Overall, half of travelers get sick in a month abroad. Be in the healthy group who doesn't! Explore the links listed here. Get medical advice about your specific health status and plans. Then enjoy your trip. See a doctor if you get ill in the year after your return.

General worldwide travel health advice for adults without health problems or allergies is summarized here from a U.S. perspective. Not all advice here applies to all destinations, of course.

Nothing fully eliminates risks, but these tips can help reduce them.

Disclaimer: All information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as advice from or implied to be a substitute for the professional advice of a doctor or other healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your clinician for any questions you may have regarding your health. Author and distributors of this work are not responsible for any injury, damage or loss you may incur as a result of your use of or reliance on any material or information provided. Brands or trademarks mentioned here belong to their owners and are used as examples.