Thursday, July 21, 2016

Safe Summer Travels

No one likes to think about being sick on vacation, but with so many news stories about various epidemics circulating in popular summer destinations, we turned to two of GBMC’s infectious disease physicians Maneesha Ahluwalia, MD, and Alina A. Sanda, MD, for advice. Here are their tips for a safe and healthy vacation:

Q: What is the number one precaution I should take when traveling?

Maneesha Ahluwalia, MD
A: Hand washing cannot be emphasized enough; it’s like a do-it yourself vaccine! Lather with water for at least 20 seconds (about one Happy Birthday song) and dry with a clean towel. Wash before eating, before and after treating a cut or wound, after using the toilet, after touching an animal or garbage and after changing diapers. Avoid those who are coughing and sneezing, and if you must cough or sneeze, do so into your shirt sleeve or elbow, not hand.

Q: What are some good items to pack?

A: Pack full-sized bottles of sunscreen and insect repellent, especially if visiting a tropical location. Use products with 25 percent DEET; you don’t need more than that. Apply sunscreen first, and then insect repellent. Also bring hand sanitizer or dissolvable soap, which does not require water to rinse off. Oral rehydration salts can come in handy for people who become dehydrated due to traveler’s diarrhea or vomiting. Bring along 1% hydrocortisone cream; it is helpful for a variety of skin conditions from insect bites and poison ivy to allergies, rashes and overall itchiness.

Alina A. Sanda, MD
Keep your prescription medications in your carry-on luggage and bring extra just in case. If you have any chronic illnesses, carry a card that identifies, in the local language, your blood type, medical conditions, medicines you take, and any allergies you have. Wear a MedicAlert bracelet if you have serious medical conditions.

Q: Are there foods or drinks I should avoid?

A: If you are traveling abroad to places like Africa, Asia or South America, do not drink the tap water. Brush your teeth with bottled water. Avoid eating raw fruits or vegetables unless they have a thick peel, like a banana or orange. In all locations, be wary of food served at room temperature, raw or soft-cooked eggs, raw or undercooked meat or fish, unpasteurized dairy and wild game.

Q: Should my family be vaccinated before we travel abroad?

A: Visit a travel clinic 6-8 weeks prior to traveling and bring along your vaccination history, a detailed itinerary and your travel dates. They will be able to give you reliable advice on recommended vaccines. Some vaccines and malaria prevention tablets must be started weeks prior to travel, so be sure to plan in advance. For the most up-to-date, reliable travel alerts for every country, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

Q: What should I do if I think one of my family members has contracted a disease?

A: Seek medical attention immediately. Hydration is usually a good first step. Find a safe and reliable doctor who speaks your language by contacting the US embassy in your destination country ( Upon returning home, make an appointment with a primary care physician, who will assess your symptoms and determine whether a referral to an infectious disease specialist is necessary.

To learn more about infectious diseases and primary care at GBMC, visit and or call 443-849-GBMC (4262).

No comments:

Post a Comment