Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling Abroad - Page 2

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travel abroad, bug spray, mosquito
When traveling to countries with a history of mosquito-borne illnesses, bug spray should be just as convenient as your money.  (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

According to the CDC, about 1,500 Americans contract malaria while abroad every year. It is one of the most prevalent health issues travelers have once landing back on home soil. Here are some facts about it and other common travel ailments, as well as tips on how to protect yourself.

While most of those cases happen in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is present in many tropical areas, even in parts of the Caribbean. A travel-health doctor can provide advice about particular destinations, but using strong bug spray—brands with DEET in concentrations of 30 percent or more, applied every six hours—and wearing long clothes during peak bug times usually make the most sense for visitors to tourist areas. If medication is deemed necessary, the regimen should be started before departure to ensure there are no serious side effects, taken on a strict schedule throughout the trip, and continued after returning home, as malaria has an incubation period. It is important to know that the type of medication depends upon the area you are traveling to, so it is wise to always consult your doctor beforehand.

Dengue Fever
Dengue is on the rise and relatively common around the world’s tropics—cases occur in Central America, the Caribbean, and, recently, as close to home as Florida. A person’s first infection with this mosquito-borne disease usually goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as the flu or another common ailment. However, symptoms can become rather severe if untreated. And, as with chicken pox, the body builds immunity to dengue when infected. It’s important to note, though, that there are four varieties of dengue, and immunity to one does not protect against the others. "That’s when the trouble occurs," McLaughlin says. "Dengue gets dangerous with the second or third infection."

Unfortunately, there are no vaccinations or drug treatments for the dengue virus itself, just to treat the symptoms—like chills, headache, back pain, and intense fever. The best way to avoid it is to apply liberal amounts of bug spray and long clothes when the bugs come out, as well as avoiding swamp-like places where they lurk. Travelers in high-risk areas who plan to sleep outside or in a room without good screens should sleep under a mosquito net treated with permethrin.

Yellow Fever
Yellow fever is the last in the trifecta of widespread mosquito-borne illnesses, and also the least problematic for American travelers. That’s because yellow fever, which is mostly found in parts of Africa and South America, can be vaccinated against. In fact, at most yellow-fever hotspots, visitors can’t even enter the country without the shot. Double-check your medical records just in case and consult your doctor if you have any questions.

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