These days jet lag isn’t the only thing plaguing Americans who travel overseas.
According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of international travelers return to the US with a travel-related illness. A recent study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine found dermatological diseases to be the third most common type of travel-related illness. Close to 20% of the travelers surveyed suffered animal/insect bites, skin infections, or rash.
The destination countries with the highest rates of disease were Africa and Asia, but, as the study noted, no place is free of health hazards. Whether you’re going to be traveling to Dubai or Duluth, Minnesota, these tips will keep your skin safe while you’re away from home:
1. Visit a doctor before you travel. The Annals of Internal Medicine study noted that among the travelers who contracted vaccine-preventable illnesses, less than 20% had seen a healthcare provider prior to travel —meaning 80% of those illnesses could have been prevented.
Before a trip, take stock: Are your vaccines up to date? Have you stocked up on the right antibiotics and skincare products? We know, we know: Doctors visits are the worst, but a general practitioner can provide lifesaving instructions for avoiding foodborne and waterborne illnesses, and a dermatologist can explain how to alter your skincare treatments to fit the weather and climate of the place to which you are traveling. When it comes to your health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
2. Before stepping into a hot tub or swimming pool, make sure it’s safe. Did you know that “hot tub folliculitis” is an actual condition? Inadequately chlorinated hot tubs and swimming pools can be breeding grounds for bacteria. A quick swim in contaminated water can cause painful rashes as well as a fever that can last for up to 12 days.
Before stepping into literal unknown waters, check with the operator of the pool or hot tub to make sure that the disinfectant and pH levels are checked at least twice per day. If you want to swim without worry, bring pool test strips with you so that you can check the levels yourself.
After every swim, shower and wash with soap. Your loved ones may like it when you smell of chlorine, but it’s important to get the pool bacteria off your skin.
3. Avoid mosquitos. Even if you aren’t visiting a country inhabited by mosquitos that carry serious diseases like dengue fever, getting bitten can still result in bacterial skin infections.
Wear repellent at all times, and wear long-sleeve shirts and pants whenever possible. As the Center for Disease Control advises, you can kill mosquito eggs before they hatch by eliminating standing water, “Outdoors, clean water containers like pet and animal watering containers, flower planter dishes or cover water storage barrels. Look for standing water indoors such as in vases with fresh flowers and clean at least once a week.”
4. Check your skin for bug bites and rashes. A bite or a rash can be the first symptom of a serious condition. Familiarize yourself with dermatological symptoms of illnesses common in the region to which you are traveling so you can seek medical assistant sooner rather than later in the event that you develop symptoms.
5. Wash your hands regularly. To illustrate the importance of this one, let’s try a little thought experiment: Imagine your hand touching a door in an airport terminal. Now imagine that just five minutes prior, that very same door was sneezed on by a man who has malaria.
Makes you want to wash your hands, doesn’t it?
Transit hubs are filled with germs from all over the world. To stay healthy, carry hand sanitizer.