Travel Health Checklist: Avoid Getting Sick Abroad

by Elara Mosquera,

travel tips for staying healthy

Setting off to travel abroad for holiday or work is always a liberating experience, but preparing for international travel is also stressful, especially when considering your health. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be. It can be easy to pack a preventive travel abroad health kit in order to stay safe and healthy abroad.

Creating Your Personal Travel Health Kit Checklist

If you can, try and think about where you are going, what you will be doing,  and whether you will have access to health items and supplies where you are traveling. It can be helpful to write down a list before you get started.

First, Learn About The Country You Are Traveling To

It’s important to learn about your destination when outlining what will go into your travel health kit. The US State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) provides a comprehensive list of country specific health information for every country in the world. You can find the most up to date information on conditions abroad that may affect your safety and security.

Before you leave, always be sure to see if there are any travel warnings or alerts for your destination.

travelling with prescriptions

Contact the Embassy Of The Country To Which You Are Destined

It is a good idea to contact the Embassy of the country to which you are destined, to see what, if any, rules apply to the importation of medications or supplements you may take. It is also recommended to register as a traveler by emailing  the nearest U.S. or Canadian Embassy or Consulate by your planned destination, in case any medical emergency arises when you are abroad.

Vitamins, Supplements, and Other Over-The-Counter Medications To Pack

Here is a list of several vitamins, supplements, and over the counter medications that don’t require a prescription that can help keep you healthier when traveling abroad, according to SuReceta’s integrative medical expert Dr. Joseph Mosquera

  • Take elderberry supplements right before your flying and while traveling to support your body’s defenses while traveling. A 2016 study found that travelers who take an elderberry supplement suffered fewer colds, shorter cold durations, and less severe symptoms.
  • If you are headed to a cooler climate or plan to spend a lot of time indoors, consider packing vitamin D to support immunity. If you’re heading somewhere with lots of sun, no need.
  • Antihistamines and decongestants for allergies.
  • Taking Magnesium can help improve your sleep if your changing time zones or experiencing insomnia.
  • Anti-motion sickness medication.
  • Medicine for pain or fever (such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen)
  • Taking probiotic supplements while traveling can help ease stomach issues as well as boost your immune system, since jet lag will disrupt your sleeping patterns and digestive system.

Travelling With Prescription Medications

Pack your prescription medications in your carry on luggage, along with a copy of all prescriptions including the generic names of the medication. Be sure to bring a note while traveling from your prescribing physician for any controlled substances and injectable medications you may be prescribed. You can always check the ACS’s information or with the American Embassy or Consulate in the country you are traveling to to find out what may or may not be allowed.

Special Prescriptions For Your Trip?

In certain countries, we are aware of possible exposure to illness and diseases that have preventive medications.

  • Malaria: In countries where malaria is a problem, various medicines can be taken in different timeframes and doses. The CDC provides a country-specific table of antimalarial drug as well as a page on various considerations to take into account when choosing your malaria medication.
  • Traveler’s Diarrhea: It can be helpful to have antibiotics for diarrhea, prescribed by your doctor before you leave, for self-treatment. In India, for example, the risk for traveler’s’ diarrhea is moderate to high for travelers, with an estimated 30%–50% chance of developing diarrhea during a 2-week journey.

Required Vaccinations and Certificates

Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (aka a Yellow Card) or other proof that they’ve had certain vaccinations or medical tests before entering or leaving their country. Before you travel, read up on the country specific information on the ACS website for required vaccinations.

Furthermore, the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommendations for vaccinations and other travel health precautions for traveling abroad to certain countries.

travelling with prescriptions

Other Preventative Supplies for Illness or Physical Injury

  • Insect repellent containing DEET (30%-50%) or picaridin (up to 15%)
  • Sunscreen (preferably SPF 15 or greater) that has both UVA and UVB protection
  • Antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Water purification tablets
  • Latex Condoms
  • Cough drops
  • Medicine to prevent altitude sickness
  • First aid quick reference card
  • Basic first-aid items (bandages, gauze, ace bandage, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, cotton-tipped applicators)
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Aloe gel for sunburns
  • Digital thermometer
  • Oral rehydration solution packets

Health Insurance Abroad

Before you go abroad, learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas.Be sure to check with your provider if your health insurance policy provides coverage outside your country of origin. It’s very important to remember to bring both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance AND a claim form.

Give Emergency Contact Information to Friends and Family

In the case of a medical emergency abroad, leave emergency contact information and a copy of your passport biographic data page, which is the page of your passport with your picture on it, with family and trusted friends, and carry emergency contact information with you when you travel.

When you are prepared and pack a health kit, you’ll worry a lot less about your health being compromised by your travels, giving you more time to focus on enjoying your experience abroad. Safe travels!