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Video: How to Protect Your Health While Traveling Abroad

04/25/16 Christopher Sanford, MD, MPH, DTM&H, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Associate Professor, Department of Global Health, University of Washington
Transcript of Interview With Dr. Christopher Sanford

There’s a lot of planning that goes into an overseas trip. Here are a few pointers to keep you healthy during your travels.

I’m Dr. Christopher Sanford, I’m a family practice doctor and I work here at the University of Washington where I run a travel clinic. I wrote the chapter for the MSD Manual on travel medicine.

One thing that’s important to discuss with your regular doctor is the level of physical activity that’s required for a given trip. So for example, if you are going to be mountain climbing or going to a high altitude, you would need to run that by your regular physician if you have chronic illnesses to make sure that doctor feels that’s an appropriate trip for you.

One thing we recommend when folks go overseas, particularly to a low income country, is that they see a pre-travel medicine physician first and talk about routine immunizations as well as travel immunizations.

There are a lot of differences in the travel. In high-income countries, you can drink the tap water, the roads are generally safe, and you don’t need vaccinations for things like typhoid fever and you generally don’t need to take pills for malaria.

In a low-income country, the roads are going to be more dangerous, and there are a lot of infectious diseases that are more common that maybe we’ve eliminated in the United States, and that would include malaria and typhoid fever.

If there is malaria there, I recommend taking a pill to prevent malaria, and traveler’s diarrhea is common in low-income countries around the world.

The sad reality is traveler’s diarrhea is common throughout the developing world. You can bring your risk down with judicious food choice, but you cannot eliminate the risk. Some things that I would recommend would be avoiding road-side stands, tap water, lettuce and salads, raw foods, and ice. This would bring down your risk a little, but you cannot eliminate the risk.

In a high-income country such as the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, there’s a high level of medical care. You’re going to get good care pretty much no matter where you go. In a low-income country, there’s a bigger range of care. One thing I would do in general is go urban. There tends to be better care in the cities. If something big and bad happens, you’re in a car crash, you break your thigh bone, your femur, consider flying out to a high-income country for treatment.

Related Manuals Topics

Travel and Health Problems at the Destination
Problems After Travel
Traveler's Diarrhea