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Many of us would like to travel the world and experience the excitement of different people, places and cultures. But what precautions should you take to ensure safe and healthy travel abroad?

Check-in Early With Your Physician

“You should check in with your doctor at least six weeks before you plan to travel,” says Dr. Mouzoon, “so that any issues discovered during the pre-travel visit may be addressed and immunizations will have time to take effect.”

Tell your doctor about your itinerary, including your planned length of stay, recreation and business plans. You should also share if you are going on repeated trips abroad. If you plan to walk, run or jog while traveling, let your doctor know that as well, since these activities that may increase your risk of dog or mosquito bites.

Make Sure You Have the Right Immunizations

Dr. Mouzoon recommends making sure your immunizations are current and appropriate for your destination.

“Routine shots should be up-to-date,” Dr. Mouzoon says. “Measles immunization is especially important for anyone born after 1956 who has not had two doses. Measles is common in England, Switzerland and other parts of Europe, as well as Israel and other  destinations.”

Prepare for the Most Common Maladies

Dr. Mouzoon advises travelers to take any precautions they can to prevent the most common travel illnesses and to relieve symptoms should they acquire them.

The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that at least one-third of travelers abroad experience diarrhea or upper-respiratory infections.

“Diarrhea is common, no matter where one travels, but it is more likely to be infectious and interrupt travel plans in areas with less developed infrastructure,” Dr. Mouzoon says. “'Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it' is good advice. Make sure food is well cooked. And remember, ice cubes in otherwise safe bottled beverages can carry diarrhea-causing germs.”

Many travelers make the mistake of thinking they will not become ill if traveling to the country of their birth.

“Commonly, people returning to their native country think they are not at risk when visiting home,” she says. “They can acquire serious illnesses such as typhoid fever and malaria in their country of origin. Influenza is common among travelers, and circulates in the tropics year-round and in the southern hemisphere during our ‘summer’ months.”

Pack Your Travel Kit

When putting together your travel medicine kit, begin with the basics. Have a list of your medications and medical conditions, as well as adequate over-the-counter prescriptions for anything you might even remotely need.

Take along adequate supplies of medications for asthma and other chronic illnesses, even if you only need those medications occasionally. And be sure to wear a medical alert bracelet that tells about allergies and other medical conditions.

All 13 kelsey Pharmacies sell pre-packaged travel medicine kits for particular destinations. The kits are packaged in a convenient tote bag containing many basics such as:

  • Pepto-Bismal tablets, effective in reducing the length of gastrointestinal illness
  • Curad Bandaids and an Ace-Wrap bandage
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Fever reducing tablets

“Bring insect repellents containing DEET and sunscreen with at least an SPF of at least 30,” she says. “Also worth packing are insecticide-treated bed nets and long-sleeved shirts and long pants for travel to areas with mosquito-born illnesses, such as Indonesia, Africa and India.”

Some Other Common-Sense Tips to Remember

Dr. Mouzoon tells her patients to use common sense at all times when traveling. Some of her top reminders:

  • Use your seatbelts in cabs and rental cars, as well as in the air.
  • Don’t travel on roads in underdeveloped countries at night.
  • Take care when crossing streets and going out in public.
  • Dress inconspicuously and don’t make yourself a target.
  • To keep up-to-date with possible medical hazards that might occur in your chosen destination, check out the CDC's travel website.
  • Be sure to take adequate supplies of your usual medications, especially those for high blood pressure, heart disease or asthma.

“By getting ready ahead of time and preparing yourself for some of the pitfalls of traveling, you’ll have more peace of mind and hopefully more fun,” concludes Dr. Mouzoon.

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Melanie Mouzoon, MD, FAAP, FABM

​I am privileged to work with newborns and to have the opportunity to help in the transition from "couple" to "family." I am a great advocate of supporting new moms in achieving successful breastfeeding and in helping new dads to become involved in the care and emotional support of their children. I believe that every baby deserves exceptional care and attention and I make my medical decisions very conservatively. Because I don't follow newborns once they leave the hospital, it is important to me that there are no unresolved issues and that the family is well-informed and able to care for the baby at discharge.