Tips For Healthy Foreign Travel, From Pink Pills To Apps : Shots - Health News Two travel tips are often overlooked by clinicians, and can be especially helpful when people are headed to places with less-than-ideal plumbing and sewage systems.
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Tips For Staying Healthy When Traveling Abroad

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Tips For Staying Healthy When Traveling Abroad

Tips For Staying Healthy When Traveling Abroad

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

If you're lucky enough to travel abroad this summer, you may spend the days and weeks beforehand focused on making sure you don't forget anything - passport, sunscreen, guidebook. But what about a vaccine? A recent study of overseas travelers found that doctors and nurses failed to give the measles vaccine to half of travelers who were eligible for it. And vaccines are not the only health worry that there is, of course. NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff has a few tips to keep you healthy that travel clinics often overlook.

MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF, BYLINE: Let's start off with what's most likely to make you sick while traveling this year. That's food poisoning. About a quarter of all international travelers will have some type of stomach problem. Dr. Daniel Leung at the University of Utah says clinicians often advise watching what you eat to prevent food poisoning. They even have a little catchy phrase to help you remember it.

DANIEL LEUNG: Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it. That's on a number of recommendations by the CDC, and it seems to be our kind of traditional recommendation to travelers.

DOUCLEFF: But Leung says there really isn't scientific evidence that watching what you eat prevents food poisoning. Several studies have found that it doesn't do much good. However, a study back in the '80s did find one thing that could help. Many clinicians seem to have forgotten about it. But it's cheap. It's safe. And it's a beautiful pink color.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hey, there's Pepto Bismol - nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) Yay, Pepto Bismol.

DOUCLEFF: Yep, I'm talking about Pepto Bismol or anything with its active ingredient - bismuth subsalicylate.

LEUNG: There are studies that have shown that Pepto Bismol taken four times a day as a preventative is effective in preventing traveler's diarrhea.

DOUCLEFF: It can cut the risk in half, and it doesn't matter the liquid or the pill form. Just take a few doses before each meal, and then cross your fingers. OK, the second tip I have is about those vaccines. Dr. Gary Brunette is the chief of the Travelers' Health branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He says clinicians sometimes forget one of the CDC's key recommendations.

GARY BRUNETTE: All the routine childhood vaccines should be up to date before someone travels.

DOUCLEFF: Before travel anywhere, even just a quick hop to Europe or Mexico. The so-called routine vaccines Brunette is talking about are all the shots recommended for kids. There's about a dozen of them for the measles, meningitis, hepatitis. The list is long. Add on top of that any vaccine you might need for a specific place, and things get pretty complicated. So to be sure you don't miss any vaccines, the CDC has come up with a new app called TravWell. You type in your destination, when you're traveling and poof.

BRUNETTE: It will suggest the vaccines and medication you probably need and will ask you to take those recommendations to your doctor so that you can have a discussion of what's appropriate for you.

DOUCLEFF: Brunette says he even uses the app himself because it just makes getting ready for a big trip easier and less stressful. Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF YUNG GUD'S "FOREVER 2001")

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