Escaping to an overseas retreat this summer? From the bustling cities of Europe to the sunny, tropical beaches of the Caribbean, here’s everything you need to know about staying healthy and safe before, during, and after your vacation.
Now that warm weather is here to stay, it’s time to plan your next vacation. As you venture overseas for summer vacation, there are health and safety risks you should be aware of. No matter where you go—majestic mountains, secluded beaches, or bustling cities—kick off your travel adventure by getting prepared with CDC Travelers’ Health.
Before You Go
- Learn about health concerns at your destination. Even if you’re familiar with the place, there may be new and important health risks that could make or break your trip.
- Make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist or your healthcare provider to get needed vaccines and medicine at least 4 to 6 weeks before you leave.
- CDC recommends all travelers be up to date on routine vaccines, such as influenza and measles. There are currently measles outbreaks in many popular destinations —don’t go unprotected!
- Pack a travel health kit with your prescription and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra), first aid supplies, and your health insurance card.
- Monitor travel warnings and alerts at your destination through the State Department website.
- You also can enroll with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get the latest safety updates and help in an emergency.
- Prepare for the unexpected.
- Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home, in case you lose them during travel.
- Find out if your health insurance covers medical care abroad—many plans don’t! Consider buying additional insurance that covers health care and emergency evacuation, especially if you will be traveling to remote areas.
Health Risks and Outbreaks
- Many popular summer destinations throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, the Pacific Islands, and Mexico still have a risk of Zika. Because Zika can cause serious birth defects if a woman is infected during pregnancy, travelers should take certain precautions before and after traveling to areas with risk of Zika. Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with risk of Zika. Zika is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but it can also spread through sex. Check CDC’s Zika Travel Information page to find out if there is a risk of Zika at your destination and how to protect yourself and others during and after travel.
- Travelers to the Caribbean should be aware that some islands may not have recovered from the damage caused by the 2017 hurricanes. See Hurricanes Irma and Maria travel notice for more information.
- There are outbreaks of measles in popular destinations in Europe (England, France, Italy, Greece), Indonesia, and the Philippines. Measles is highly contagious and can lead to serious complications. Don’t put yourself at risk. Make sure you are up to date on the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and other routine vaccines before you go.
- There is a deadly outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil. Travelers to Brazil (including popular destinations like Ilha Grande and the cities of Rio and Sao Paolo) should protect themselves by getting yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before travel. Only select US clinics currently offer yellow fever vaccine, so plan ahead and find a clinic near you.
During Your Trip
- Eat and drink safely. Contaminated food or drinks can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases. Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness. If you are traveling to a developing country, you are especially at risk.
- Eat only food that is cooked and served hot.
- Eat fruits and vegetables you have washed in safe water or peeled yourself.
- Drink water, sodas, or sports drinks that are bottled and sealed, or very hot coffee or tea.
- Use ice made with bottled or disinfected water.
- Protect yourself from hot temperatures and sun exposure. Wear SPF 15 or higher sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays when enjoying outdoor activities, and reapply as directed.
- Prevent insect bites. Using insect repellent can protect you from serious diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as Zika, dengue, and malaria.
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
- Apply sunscreen first, then repellent. Be sure to follow instructions on the label and reapply as directed.
- Always wear seat belts and choose safe transportation. Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of healthy US citizens in foreign countries.
- Ride only in marked taxis or ride-sharing vehicles.
- Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left.
- Avoid overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or vans.
After You Return
- Some travel-related illnesses may not cause symptoms until after you get home. If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. This will help your doctor consider infections that are rarely found in the United States.
- If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, find a clinic here.
- If you have traveled to an area with risk of Zika
- Take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after your trip, even if you don’t feel sick, so that you don’t spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes back home that can spread the virus to other people.
- You should also use condoms for at least 2 months (women) or 6 months (men or if both partners traveled together) after your return to protect your sex partner(s) from getting Zika through sex. Men with pregnant partners should continue to use condoms for the rest of their partner’s pregnancy.
- If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor or nurse about your recent travel, even if you don’t have symptoms. Your doctor or nurse will decide if and when to test you for Zika.