Tips on how to stay healthy during international travel

You're done all the planning, you've booked your hotel, scheduled fun activities and written your "out of office" reply for work email. The last thing you want once you arrive is to spend days of your vacation feeling ill and trapped in your bathroom, right?

Over the years there are a few things I've learned and practice that can help lower the probability of getting sick on your holiday.

1. Bottled water, bottled water, bottled water. My kids think I'm a bit crazy how diligent I am even brushing my teeth with bottled water but this is critical once you enter into certain parts of the world. Keep in mind to only drink bottled water that is still sealed.  There have been rumors of places refilling the bottles with not officially true bottled water. If you decide to drink soda or beverages out of a can, be careful to use a straw or make sure that it is poured into a clean glass.

2. Review the Center for Disease Control's website for the recommended immunizations for your destination(s). You'd think I was a MD with the amount of prescription meds I travel with, however, having your primary care physician prescribe an antibiotic (note, to carry one approved for children if you're traveling with your kids), prescription strength anti-nausea meds, and if you're traveling above 8,000 feet in elevation, you might want to consider medicine to help avoid altitude sickness as well. Over the counter, I bring the typical ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea, vitamins, fiber tablets, antiseptic, cortisone and bandaids. A small bottle of vinegar is also handy for areas where you might be swimming in very warm water temperatures. Several years ago, my son was stung by a man o'war jellyfish in St. Lucia where the locals took pity on us and donated some vinegar. It takes some time for the pain to subside but this homeopathic remedy can help.

3. NO street food. Gasp. I know this can be an enjoyable part of being in an exotic destination and immersion with the locals, but know the risks that you have a higher chance of the food being contaminated. I tend to avoid lettuce or fruits that don't have a skin that I can't peel. Also, keep in mind refrigeration habits in your locale. I had an experience in Europe with unseasonal 90 degree temps and ordinarily safe cafe food ended up being not so fresh. Unfortunately, half of our group ended up requiring a house call from a local doctor.

4. Avoid slow moving or still fresh water. There are bacteria (especially when the water temperature is warm) that live in these waters that can lead to a health problem. 

5. Protect yourself and take precautions against mosquitos and other bug bites. Carry a bug repellent with at least 20% or more of DEET and try to avoid peek hours such as dusk. You may also want to be sure to wear appropriate clothing for example in Africa being sure to wear long pants and light weighted shirts with longer sleeves.