It’s spring break time. Many Minnesotans are heading to tropical spots to relax. Wherever you go, it’s important to keep yourself safe and healthy.
Brett Hendel-Paterson, a tropical medicine doctor at HealthPartners Travel and Tropical Medicine Clinic , shares advice for anyone taking a trip this spring break.
Apply and reapply
When you’re outside, wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. And reapply it every two hours and after you swim.
Watch your step, don’t get hit
Accidents or other trauma are the top cause of death in travelers, besides existing health conditions. Remember: in foreign nations, pedestrians may not have the same protections as in the United States.
Don’t get bit
Zika,Dengue Fever and Chikungunya viruses are carried by the same type of mosquito. It bites during the day. Malaria is also carried by mosquitoes. The only way to prevent them is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
You can avoid insect bites by using effective insect repellents. These include DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Also, wear light clothing that extends down to your wrists and ankles.
Be aware of dogs, cats and other biting animals. Stay away to prevent infections or rabies.
Be careful with intoxicating substances
Alcohol and drug use can lead to many problems. Underage drinking and taking illegal substances can land you in jail. Impaired decision-making also results in paying less attention to safety or other good decisions.
Too much alcohol can also dehydrate you. Try to drink plenty of bottled water if you have been drinking.
Be smart about sexual health
The risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is ever-present. The only 100 percent effective way to prevent them is not having sexual contact. If you have a new partner, protect yourself by using a barrier method. This includes condoms.
Some STIs don’t have symptoms. If you have a new partner, you should get tested when you return from vacation.
Watch what you eat
Traveler’s diarrhea is the illness you’re most likely to run into on vacation. Depending on where you go, 20 to 70 percent of people get sick with traveler’s diarrhea. It generally happens during or shortly after their trip.
Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. These are consumed by eating tainted food or beverages. The contamination is from germs shed in the stool of an infected person or animal.
Sanitation in low or middle-income nations can be tough. You can’t depend on local plumbing to remove germs from tap water. And you should not depend on just washing fruits and vegetables.
Bottled water, carbonated drinks (without ice) and food that is so hot you could burn your tongue are fairly safe options. Ice (which can be made with dirty water), salads and uncooked prepared foods are higher risk.
Visit the HealthPartners Travel Medicine Clinic before your trip if you have questions.