Travel Health

When planning a trip, don’t forget about your health. You might put yourself at risk of getting an illness that could ruin your trip or, worse, be life-threatening. Your risk of becoming sick depends on several factors such as your age, gender, immunization status and current state of health. In addition, your destination, length of stay, type of trip and accommodation (e.g. first class, backpacking, adventure), activities (e.g. animal contact, tours, fresh water exposure) and the diseases occurring in an area, can also contribute to the risk.

Before you go

The Health Unit provides travel health advice to Perth County residents and certain immunizations.  Call the Health Unit or your doctor at least six weeks before leaving on your trip.  This will ensure that you have enough time to review health concerns and to receive any vaccinations you may need. Short trips to resorts and major cities may require little travel advice or immunizations, while higher risk trips need more extensive consultation.

  • Keep up to date with your routine immunizations
  • Find out about possible diseases or dangers in the country you are visiting
  • Ensure that your passport, visas and health insurance are current.
  • Leave copies of important documents with someone at home in case these documents are lost or stolen.

While you are away

Food and water safety

Each year thousands of Canadians return home from a trip with travellers’ diarrhea caused by bacteria, parasites or a virus picked up through contaminated food and water.  The following tips can help you avoid this unpleasant experience:

  • Only drink purified water or commercially bottled water in sealed containers.  Ensure ice is made with purified or bottled water.
  • Brush your teeth with bottled water
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, as often as possible, and before eating
  • Remember to “boil it, cook it, peel it or leave it”
    • Eat only food that’s been well-cooked and is still hot when served
    • Do not eat raw shellfish
    • Avoid salads and food from street vendors
    • Avoid raw vegetables and fruit unless they can be peeled

Remember, too much sun, alcohol and spicy foods may disturb your usual digestive process. If symptoms last longer than two days during travel or after you come home, or if you have bloody diarrhea or fever, see a doctor.

Other precautions

  • Acclimatize – allow your body time to adjust to the temperature change. Don’t over-exert yourself in the heat.
  • Use sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. Use an SPF of 30 or higher for children.
  • Reapply sun screen every two hours and after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Wear sunglasses, a hat and other protective clothing.
  • Always wear shoes to protect against injuries and insect bites.
  • Don’t swim in fresh water – slow moving lakes, rivers and streams in many developing countries may have parasites that can infect unbroken skin and cause serious illnesses.
  • Take care while driving – motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in travellers. Avoid travelling at night or in overcrowded vehicles.
  • Sexually transmitted infections are more common in some countries. Avoid unprotected sex, injection drug use and ear/body piercing.
  • Be sure to have enough medication for the length of your stay. Keep medications in their original packaging or in clearly labelled containers and take a copy of the doctor’s medical prescription with you. Essential medication should be divided and stored in two different pieces of luggage in the event that one piece of luggage is delayed, lost or stolen.

Avoid insect bites

  • Travel to tropical areas may mean contact with mosquitos and other insects capable of spreading infectious diseases.
  • Use insect repellant with no more than 30% DEET or 20% Icaridin on clothing and uncovered skin, as per product directions. Use no more than 10% DEET on children 6 months to 12 years of age.
  • Use treated mosquito netting if sleeping in rural areas without air conditioning or screens on the windows.
  • Take antimalarial pills (if needed for your trip) as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Wear protective clothing and footwear.

After you come home

See your doctor if you become ill after returning home, especially if you have a fever or diarrhea. Make sure your doctor is aware of your trip.

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