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Health Issues that Arise While Traveling

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Traveling is a time of exploration, relaxation and a little bit of indulgence. To enjoy your travels to the fullest it is important to be well prepared for your journey. While most people plan for transportation, lodging and activities; planning for health issues can often be overlooked. Here are a few of the most common health issues that arrive when traveling and how to prepare for an unexpected crisis.

Travelers’ diarrhea

While hardly threatening to your health, this illness affects up to 50% of all travelers annually. This illness comes complete with many fun names; Delhi Belly, Turkey Trot and Montezuma’s revenge. They all mean the same thing; an extremely embarrassing and frustrating extended spell in which anything that goes in your mouth goes straight through. The most common cause of this is a tainted local water supply.  Bad food and food “culture shock” are also causes of travelers’ diarrhea. Most people can avoid this health issue altogether by drinking bottled water (preferably a well known international brand) and easing themselves into the local cuisine.

Adjustments to altitude changes

Most travelers are aware of the annoying ear popping that occurs in the air during flights. However, many people fail to account for the same phenomenon when visiting locales in high elevations. A train ride from Germany to Italy will have your ears feeling like a sheet of bubble wrap. But this can be more than just an annoyance. Changes in altitude can leave people with respiratory problems gasping for air. It is important to research your destination to find out its elevation. If the elevation is well above sea level you would be wise to plan a full day of rest to adjust to the thinner air prior to any major sightseeing or activities.  


Considering the possibility of being pregnant when you are traveling is often difficult. Away from the comforts of home, the thought just doesn’t cross a travelers mind. If you’re a woman and can’t pinpoint the cause of your illness, it may be a good idea to take a pregnancy test. The typical over-the-counter pregnancy tests are available in most apothecaries across the globe.  However, don’t be surprised if you must ask for assistance from behind the counter to access what you need. The only major problem if you find out your pregnant during your travels is that you will more than likely be experiencing morning sickness. Tight spaces, bumpy public transportation and general movement can be difficult tasks.  When possible, rearrange your plans around the times of the day where you feel the best to make sure you get the most out of your travels.  Remember, no matter how far into your pregnancy you are; aisle seats, water and layered clothing are your best friends!

Common cold, flu and other common viral diseases

Follow the same rules as you do at home: rest, drink plenty of fluids and isolate yourself. If you are extremely ill and are considering visiting the local medical clinic; call first.  They will tell you if you should come in or not. If the illness takes a sudden unfamiliar turn then you should probably be seen by a doctor (particularly in underdeveloped countries). Just remember that further travel when experiencing these common illnesses is tougher than ever with major modes of transportation trying to cut down the risk of spreading infections. You may need to arrange for an extended stay in your hotel while you get yourself healthy.


As a frequent traveler one of the most frustrating things is visiting a foreign drug store. While almost every basic over the counter medication can be found worldwide, the labels (and even some active ingredients) are very different.  The best thing you can do if you know there may be a chance of needing medicine is to pack enough with you in the first place.  However, traveling with any type of medication should be researched to ensure that you aren’t bringing in any banned substance into a country (pain medication is the most common). A doctor’s note and proper documentation of prescription drugs are usually sufficient for customs, but make sure you have all your bases covered. If you find yourself needing medication while away from home the best thing you can do is tell the teller at the pharmacy your symptoms and they will show you what you need for your ailment.

Health is something no one should gamble with. Including your health while planning for travels can save a lot of hassle.  While most health issues that are endured while traveling are mild at worst, be aware of local outbreaks and take precaution if something seems worse than a typical bug. The best precaution you can take is to cover yourself with health insurance. Most insurance companies in the USA don’t allow for international coverage (many don’t allow out of state)! Short-term insurance plans can be purchased to cover the dates of your travel and give you piece of mind during the experience of a lifetime.

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