When Americans travel abroad to a Third World country, they are bombarded by pre-departure concerns regarding safety and health risks. Advance planning will improve the odds of avoiding hazardous situations. Some health issues can be addressed by visiting a knowledgeable travel doctor who can respond to questions, administer the proper vaccinations and booster shots as well as prescribe medication for the upcoming trip. To minimize unnecessary trips to the hospital and unexpected calamities, consider these precautions when traveling to Third World countries.
- Passport and Visa. Make sure all of your paperwork is current and that the emergency contact information on your passport is filled out
- State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment program. Sign up here. In the event of an emergency, the State Department will have an easier time offering assistance
- Establish US Contact Person. Provide this individual with itinerary, overseas contact info, 1st page of passport, and visa information.
- Overseas Medical Insurance. Determine if your current policy covers medical expenses or whether supplementary insurance is required.
- Research. Learn about the local culture, traditions and laws. The State Department website provides useful information.
- Local Currency. Familiarize yourself with the conversion rates and the location of nearby ATMs.
- Credit Cards. Notify the provider that you will be out of the country. Some credit card companies may put a lock on your credit card when suspicious charges are made in another country. A phone call ahead of time will prevent the hassle of being denied.
- Cell Phone Apps. Check to see if there are any pertinent apps that will provide vital assistance while overseas.
- Recommendations. Consult with friends and relatives and also visit Internet travel sites for information on accommodations and restaurants.
- Hospitals. If you’re going to be spending more than a couple of weeks in an exotic location, become familiar with your medical options.
- Disinfecting Wipes or Anti-bacterial Gel. Hygiene is essential. Soap and water is not always accessible.
- Toilet Paper and/or Kleenex. A small supply will come in handy in certain locations. Toilet paper is oftentimes a rare commodity.
- Probiotic Supplements. This small pill will help to maintain a proper GI balance.
- Bug Repellant. Mosquitos can carry serious illness.
- Healthy Non-Perishable Snack Foods- granola, nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter, etc. Peanut butter needs to be packed inside checked baggage. You may become hungry when there are no food options. Having a small supply of backup food options will be a lifesaver.
- Vitamins. If your diet is altered significantly, vitamins will supplement your unbalanced diet.
- Anti-Diarrhea Medicine. Travelers’ diarrhea can wreck havoc with your plans. Having this over-the-counter safeguard can be a useful. A travel doctor may prescribe something stronger. If the medicine does not work, consider seeking medical attention.
- Rehydration Powder. These packets provide essential electrolytes during and after a bout of diarrhea.
- Prescription and Over-the Counter Medicine. It may be challenging to find FDA approved drugs in a Third World country. It is best to travel with all of the medicine that you may need.
- Power Adapter. Check out the country’s voltage and type of outlets. It may be necessary to bring an adapter for any appliances that you are bringing.
Food Tips While Traveling:
- Remain Hydrated. Dehydration can lead to serious complications. Avoid feeling thirsty.
- Do Not Use Ice Cubes. Ice cubes may include contaminated water.
- Drink Bottled Water. Avoid drinking products that were bottled at an unknown or untrusted source or are not properly sealed. When in doubt- boil the water.
- Steer Clear of Street Vendors. It is fun to try new foods. However, keep in mind that these individuals may not handle food properly.
- Meat, Fish, Dairy, and Eggs. These items should be cooked thoroughly. Avoid all unpasteurized milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk. Avoid raw meat, eggs, and shellfish
- Fruits and Vegetables. Limit or completely abstain from eating uncooked fruits and vegetables. Permissible items are things you can peel yourself.
- Diarrhea. Minor GI issues will usually resolve within a day or two. Diarrhea that is explosive and persists for more than a few days may cause dehydration. Additional symptoms such as a fever or blood in the stool may be a sign of a serious infection. If symptoms persist, seek appropriate medical assistance.
Traveling to Third World countries can be an exhilarating experience that creates lasting memories. Taking precautions in advance will help minimize unpleasant experiences and serious medical issues.