To combat sickness abroad, prevent it, prepare for it and check symptoms out if you’re unsure.
BEFORE YOU GO
Reschedule if you’re really sick: If you’re violently sick ahead of your trip, it’s probably wise to reschedule. The CDC advises air travelers with recurrent vomiting or diarrhea, a fever over 100 degrees, skin rashes and bleeding without injury to avoid flying and seek immediate medical attention. The symptoms could signal more serious illnesses.
Stay up-to-date with shots: Some countries in Africa and South America require tourists to get yellow fever vaccines or malaria prevention drugs at least seven to 10 days before they go, depending on the treatment.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
Know what to avoid: Read up on recommended practices in your host country and those to avoid, like drinking tap water, eating food that isn’t cooked or walking barefoot. “Traveler’s diarrhea” is the most common illness tourists develop abroad, a form of food poisoning that can last up to a week untreated, so take extra caution during a meal — even if it looks delicious.
Stay safe: Some countries have curfews, some don’t require seat belts in transit or some don’t provide life jackets in water sports. Stay aware and avoid what seems unsafe.
Be wary of pets: As impossible as it may sound, don’t pet the pets. Animal bites and scratches can transmit rabies, and the vaccine for exposure isn’t available in every country.
See a doctor if you need one: If you do fall ill and your symptoms are severe, see a doctor immediately. Local embassies can place you with a physician who speaks the same language, if available.
WHEN YOU’RE BACK
Check for symptoms: Fever and nausea are common after long flights and should dissipate within days, and more likely than not, you’re a healthy traveler with a nervous stomach. Still, take symptoms seriously: Consult your doctor when diarrhea lasts more than two weeks or a serious rash persists.