Friday, October 5, 2012

Health Perils in Paradise?

No. 1 in a series of handy travel tips from

Some of the world's most spectacular destinations are also home to some of the world's nastiest bugs. Yellow fever, malaria, and even polio can strike international travelers. Protect yourself by learning which vaccines or health precautions are advised for your destination. To give vaccines time to take effect, see your doctor or travel clinic four to six weeks before your trip.

Polio Booster

If you're planning an African safari, you may need a polio booster. This debilitating disease is still active in many parts of Africa and Asia. The germs can be spread through food, water, and contact with an infected person. Even if you received a polio vaccine as a child, you may need a booster to make sure you're protected against all three types of the virus.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

Along the border of Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu Falls attracts visitors from all over the world. Unfortunately, it also attracts mosquitoes that carry the yellow fever virus. Yellow fever occurs in parts of South and Central America, as well as tropical Africa, and it can be life-threatening. Vaccination is required to visit certain countries, with a booster shot needed after 10 years. Avoiding mosquito bites is important, too.

Malaria Precautions

Malaria is a life-threatening disease carried by mosquitoes. It is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, but also occurs in parts of South Asia and South America. Travelers should ask their doctor about the pros and cons of preventive antimalarial medications. Other strategies include using mosquito repellents (30% - 50% DEET for adults), wearing long sleeves and pants outdoors, and sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Bedbug Detection

Bedbugs are not choosy about their accommodations -- they check into hostels and five-star resorts across the globe. They cause itchy red bites on the face, neck, arms, hands, or other body parts -- but these marks can take up to 14 days to appear. To detect an infestation more quickly, look for tiny bugs in the folds of mattresses or sheets, rust-colored spots on the mattress, and a sweet musty odor.

Water Purification

"Don't drink the water" may be a mantra of international travelers, but there are actually several ways to make local water safe. The most reliable method is to boil it vigorously for a minute. When this isn't possible, you can disinfect water with iodine tablets, but this may not kill all types of parasites. You can also use a portable water filter. If you choose to buy bottled water, make sure the bottles come from a trusted source.

Dehydration Precautions

Adventures in extremely hot and humid climates can put travelers at risk for dehydration. The risk is even greater if you develop traveler's diarrhea. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mucous membranes, and urinating less. Sports drinks can help you stay hydrated if you're well, but they are not suitable when you have diarrhea. In that case, you should sip an oral rehydration solution.

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