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Travel involves many moving parts, forcing you to plan carefully and make checklists to ensure everything comes together nicely.

But while you may be in the habit of using packing checklists to not forget the essentials, how much thought do you put into your physical and mental health when traveling?

Staying healthy while traveling should always be your top priority. Should you experience sickness, injury, or a mental illness setback during your holiday, things can quickly become far less enjoyable.

Whether you’re in your 20s or 80s, no-one is immune to falling ill while traveling. Prioritizing your health is not only important for your overall well-being, it can also substantially impact you financially if you happen to require overseas medical treatment.

To assist you in creating an effective travel health checklist, here are the top things to be concerned about when it comes to traveling and your health. You’ll find information relating to getting vaccinations, traveling with medications, and dealing with mental health issues while traveling.

How to Make a Health Checklist Before You Travel

Getting Required Vaccinations

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Thoroughly researching your chosen travel destination will help you to understand what you need to do to prepare for your vacation. And one thing you may need in advance is a vaccine.

Different countries have different requirements when it comes to vaccinations you must have if you wish to enter the country. Vaccinations you may be required to get or are at the very least are often highly recommended may include typhoid, yellow fever, tuberculosis, cholera, and hepatitis A and B.

Recommended vaccines will also depend on your age, any pre-existing medical conditions you have, and whether or not you are pregnant. Don’t procrastinate in getting your travel vaccinations either, as several doses may be required and your body may need an allocated period of time to develop full immunity.

You can look at getting your travel vaccinations from your GP, pharmacy with healthcare services, or a private travel vaccination clinic.

You may be required to carry with you a certificate or record that proves you have received certain vaccines. It is very likely that many countries will soon require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry.

Traveling With Pre-Existing Conditions

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Traveling with a pre-existing medical condition can impact your travels in many ways including putting you at greater risk for illness or injury, affecting the coverage of your travel insurance, or determining the level of comfort and enjoyment you’ll experience during your holiday.

Pre-existing medical conditions you should be concerned about while traveling include everything from serious and chronic conditions like cancer and diabetes to less severe conditions like acne and ED.

All of these may affect your travel insurance coverage or premiums, may be exacerbated by travel, or may require you to carry certain documentation with you while traveling.

For example, even for conditions like erectile dysfunction, you may need to carry a letter from your doctor explaining any medications you are taking for your recent ED treatment. Be sure to speak with ED treatment professionals like ThriveMD who specialize in stem cell therapy to get expert advice to any questions or concerns you may have when it comes to ED treatment and traveling.

Examples of conditions that can be made worse when traveling include anxiety brought on by flying or being in unfamiliar surroundings or asthma when visiting high altitude regions.

Regardless of how minor you think pre-existing medical condition is, be sure to book an appointment with your doctor 6-8 weeks before your trip so they can deem whether or not you are fit to travel and offer advice on how to manage your condition while traveling.

Be sure to disclose where you plan to travel and all the activities you have planned. Your doctor will be able to provide you with ways to minimize the impact of travel on your pre-existing condition and possibly tell you whether or not specialized care will be available in your chosen travel destination in the event it is needed.

Traveling With Medications

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If you rely on medications to treat any medical conditions you have, you need to be aware of several things. First of all, you will want to make sure to pack any medications you are taking in your carry-on luggage.

You can’t risk them being lost or delayed in your checked baggage. You will also want to carry more than enough medication than you require in case you experience travel delays that prevent you from returning home as scheduled.

You also need to be aware that some countries may outlaw certain medications that are fully legal in your home country. Your doctor should be able to find answers to whether any medications you are currently taking can be brought into your chosen travel destination without problems or can suggest alternative medications that will be allowed.

Always carry a copy of your prescription with you in case you need to get a refill, although note that not all counties accept foreign written prescriptions.

You should also carry a note from your doctor which states the medications you are taking and why you are taking them. This may come in handy when dealing with customs and border officials.

In addition to the normal medications you are taking, you may want to look into packing specific OTC medications depending on your travel destination and mode of transportation.

You may need to get motion sickness tablets for cruises on the high seas, sleeping pills for flights, or drugs to prevent malaria when visiting regions in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Dealing With Food Allergies and Intolerances

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Whether you have a serious food allergy where anaphylaxis is a concern or a less severe food intolerance, you should take steps to minimize the risk of either impacting your health while traveling.

You should always travel with an EpiPen in the event you do suffer a severe allergic reaction to food known as Anaphylaxis and know how to administer it. Other people traveling with you should also know how to administer the shot if you are unable to do so yourself.

Carrying a food allergy translation card will help you to more effectively communicate your food allergies or intolerances when traveling abroad where a different language is spoken.

You should also learn to recognize the various foreign words in print which communicate that dishes or products are gluten-free, lactose-free, or nut-free which will help you when shopping local grocery stores and reading restaurant menus. 

Mental Health and Travel

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Traveling with a mental illness deserves just as much attention as a physical one. Sadly, not all countries view mental health issues with the same level of respect or sympathy.

If you are suffering from a mental illness, you should always check with your doctor or therapist to get their advice on whether you are fit to travel or not. Many mental illnesses can impact your travels including anxiety, PTSD, depression, OCD, and eating disorders.

Often, these illnesses can be triggered or made worse when traveling due to added stress, unfamiliar surroundings, or feeling alone. You should plan for your mental illness, and come up with management strategies to better cope with things like panic attacks should they occur while traveling.

Pro tip:  These days, you can find a number of very helpful smartphone apps that are designed to help you manage specific mental health issues such as OCD or anxiety.

Learn what your triggers are so you can better avoid them while traveling and don’t be afraid to share with others any mental illnesses you are experiencing so they can help you.

Sometimes sticking to a routine that is similar to the one you have back home can help you better manage mental illnesses while traveling. You should also stay connected with family if traveling solo, as they can provide you with a great deal of support and assist you in getting professional help abroad if needed.

Unfamiliar Health Dangers and Safety Tips While Traveling

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Travelers are often confronted with unfamiliar health dangers whether its making sure the tap water is safe to drink or avoiding dangerous local wildlife. It’s a good idea to read up on all the things that may impact your health when visiting a specific destination.

If mosquito-borne diseases are common in the area you are visiting, be sure to wear insect repellent and utilize any mosquito bed nets whenever available. Avoid touching or feeding local wildlife as they may be carrying viral diseases such as rabies that can be passed onto you through bites and scratches. Also learn what animals are venomous and the habitats they are most likely to be living in so as to avoid encounters.

Be sure to read up on the local driving laws, being sure to drive on the correct side of the road, avoid night driving, understand the local road signs, wear your seat belt, and wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or scooter.

When drinking the tap water is not advised, be sure to avoid ordering ice cubes in drinks or consuming fruits and vegetables that may have been washed with contaminated water.

Remember to use bottled water when brushing your teeth as well. When it comes to food, be sure to avoid raw or undercooked food and stick with reputable restaurants and cafes where proper food-handling procedures are adhered to.

It’s always a good idea to carry a small first-aid kit with you when traveling in order to attend to any minor injuries or ailments. Upon arriving home, be sure to get a check-up with your doctor if you are experiencing any recent sickness which you may have picked up while traveling.

Traveling While Pregnant & Practicing Safe Sex

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Whether you’re currently with child, are a couple trying to get pregnant, or are simply planning on having sex while traveling, there are a number of health issues to be aware of.

When it comes to having sex, always use condoms to reduce your chances of contracting an STI such as chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, or HIV which can be transmitted between people during unprotected anal, vaginal, and oral sex. You should pack these with you before you go.

Avoid drinking alcohol if you are planning on engaging in sexual activities as it may impair your ability to think clearly and make wise decisions. Make sure you know how to use a condom properly and use a new condom for each and every individual sex act you engage in.

Health Considerations for Pregnant Women

There are also diseases that can impact a pregnant woman and their unborn child such as the Zika virus which can cause birth defects as it passes from mother to child while she is pregnant.

Zika is most commonly spread through infected mosquitoes that bite you as well as through unprotected sex with someone that has Zika. This means that is equally important to both men and women to avoid infection as it can easily spread between couples and there is currently no vaccine to prevent the virus.

Women who are currently pregnant will want to be aware that airlines and cruise ships impose restrictions for pregnant travelers and this may mean you won’t be allowed to travel on either once you reach a certain period within your pregnancy. You may for example only be allowed to travel by cruise ship up until 24 weeks.

Air travel has been known to trigger premature labor in the final stages of pregnancy. Your travel insurance will also often have restrictions in terms of coverage when it comes to pregnancy.

The safest time to travel while pregnant is during your second trimester, as morning sickness is common in the first trimester and the likelihood of premature delivery increases as you head into your final trimester.

If you are experiencing pregnancy complications or have in the past, it is advised you avoid travel. This may include having cervical problems, vaginal bleeding, multiple pregnancies, or prior miscarriages.

Pre-Travel Dental Check-Ups

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And finally, it’s wise to get a dental check-up before you travel, especially if you haven’t had one within the past six months.

Dealing with dental problems while traveling can be very unpleasant and not all countries or regions have top-grade dentistry available or it may be quite expensive.

Travel also has a way of disrupting your normal oral hygiene routine, so you need to force yourself to remember to floss and brush daily. Travelers also often consume more sugary foods and drinks while traveling, so proper cleaning becomes even more important.

Be sure to stay hydrated, especially on long flights, as the risk for tooth decay and other oral diseases significantly increases when you have a dry mouth void of saliva.

Anything else you would add to our health checklist for travel?

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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