Staying Healthy While Traveling

Staying healthy while traveling begins before you travel by being prepared with knowledge, prevention and protection techniques. For students traveling internationally, our International Travel Clinic nurse will assist you in planning, being prepared and knowing what to do if you do become ill while traveling. The following topics are a brief overview of some of the items that may be discussed during a group meeting, personal consultation, or via email.

First of all, learn about where you will be traveling. The exact destination is best to investigate and not the overall country as there may be large differences of disease patterns and health care accessibility within a country. Self-disclose to the nurse any food allergies, mental health needs, recent surgeries, or other medical conditions that you may have so that these can be addressed in a proactive fashion. Many times, the ITC nurse can assist in finding needed resources in the international country prior to your departure.

During your travels, your normal schedule is uprooted and changed. It is difficult at times to remember to take medications, eat well, get enough sleep and monitor food and water intake. These things are extremely important to staying healthy while traveling.

Other topics that will be addressed during your group meeting, individual travel consultation, or emails

  • Medications: Any prescription or over the counter medications should be left in their original package
  • Pre-existing physical and mental health concerns: Your primary care physician or specialist will need to provide Student Health Services with a letter of clearance or accommodation.
  • Insect repellants and prevention: Diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks, such as: Malaria, Chikungunya, Dengue, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Lyme Disease, Tick Borne Encephalitis, and others will be addressed and how to prevent these diseases.
  • Rabies: How to prevent exposure; what is exposure; and what to do if you are exposed.
  • Altitude Illness: Signs of this illness and how to avoid further injury
  • Hydration: How to stay hydrated and certain medications that predispose individuals to dehydration. (See under "Packing a medical kit")
  • Sunscreen: The importance of using sunscreen and its application.
  • Blood borne pathogens: Understanding how to prevent an exposure can save you from unneeded worry and testing.
  • Health Insurance: Check with your insurance policy for coverage while abroad. All students traveling with a Wheaton program will have accident & illness coverage through EIIA - see EIIA (PDF) for benefit summary. It is essential to understand the best health insurance to carry while traveling.
  • Sexual health: Prevention of sexual harassment or assault is essential so that you can study, work, and live without fear.
  • Skin Care: Due to hygiene changes, as well as weather changes, at times simple wounds become complicated quickly. Wash wounds often with soap and water. Monitor wounds closely and be quick to ask for medical care if areas become reddened, warm, or draining thick fluid.
  • Post travel needs: International travel potentially carries risk of contracting a variety of illnesses. Understanding what symptoms and illnesses need to be addressed promptly can decrease prolonged convalescence.


Traveler's Diarrhea

Traveler's diarrhea (TD) is rarely life-threatening, although it can make you feel miserable. Countries with higher risk for infection are in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Indian Subcontinent. The severity and duration of TD depends on the microorganisms consumed in contaminated food or water. Common symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and malaise.

How to treat TD (Traveler's Diarrhea)

  • First and foremost, stay hydrated. To make oral hydration solution, add 1/2 tsp. salt and 6 teaspoons of sugar to 1 liter safe water or drink Gatorade. Do not rehydrate with coffee, coke, water or artificial sweetener drinks.
  • For moderate diarrhea (3-5 stools per day) first take Pepto-Bismol (as directed).
  • Severe diarrhea requires a person to drink 3-4 liters of oral rehydration fluids followed by safe water to avoid dehydration. 
  • Consume a diet of "BRAT" (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast/tea) and foods that constipate, including crackers, cooked carrots and breads.
  • Avoid raw fruits and vegetables, greasy or spicy foods, alcohol, dairy products, and caffeinated beverages.
  • Take the antibiotic that you have been given (azithromycin) when you are experiencing moderate to severe diarrhea. If the antibiotic is not helping after the second dose and the diarrhea continues, seek medical help.

Only take Imodium when you are taking an antibiotic for TD. Do not take any antimotility medications by themselves as it does not kill the bacteria creating the problem.

Diarrhea is not the only reason to stay hydrated. Heat and sun exposure can quickly dehydrate you. Avoid heat and sun exposure and drink 8-10 glasses (8oz) per day of fluid (not just water) to stay hydrated.