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Tips for Traveling Healthy
Youthlinc’s #1 priority is to keep our teams safe and healthy as they travel internationally. In over 13 years of service trips, we have had very few accidents or health issues. Make sure to follow these easy tips so you too can stay safe and sound while overseas. While your medical mentor will be available to you as a resource and in case of any emergency, it is important that each of you bring your own supply of certain medications and other items to aid in keeping you healthy while traveling. Bring the following:
- Any prescriptions or vitamins that you take on a regular basis (in their original containers). If you have asthma be sure to bring your inhaler. If you have allergies, bring an epi-pen, etc. Bring an extra prescription for drugs you MUST take.
- Bring extra pairs of glasses. Contacts are not always feasible.
- Anti-malaria medication
- Sunscreen and aloe vera
- Electrolyte packets
- Insect repellent
- Z-pack or Cipro, Pepto Bismo
- Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Benadryl
- Melatonin or other sleep aid
- Hand sanitizer gel
- Wash your hands every chance you get with anti-bacterial soap, and especially before eating. Keep your hands clean and out of your mouth!
- Bring your own toilet paper and tissues.
- To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.
- Do not “play” in the mud or dirt.
- No wading or swimming in rivers and lakes.
Water and food issues: Traveler’s diarrhea pulls down even the stoutest of travelers and can be very unpleasant. It can be caused by parasites or viruses, but most often it is caused by bacteria carried in food or water. Nothing is more important for you health-wise than thinking carefully about everything you eat and drink.
- NEVER, under any circumstances, drink water from a tap. Drink only bottled water, bottled soda and water that has been previously boiled. Bring your own reusable, hard plastic bottles to reduce plastic waste. Refill your water bottles at the hotel. Do not share your water bottle with anyone.
- DO NOT run your toothbrush under a tap—use bottled water.
- DO NOT use any ice in your drinks.
- Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have washed and peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
- Don’t eat food purchased from street vendors.
- Don’t eat dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
- Get recommended vaccinations and medicine.
- Let the medical staff know IMMEDIATELY, the moment you are experiencing stomach or intestinal discomfort so you can start treatment right away.
- Don’t handle animals (especially monkeys, dogs, and cats), to avoid bites and serious diseases
- Mosquitoes transmit malaria, yellow fever and dengue. Ticks and smaller insects can also transmit Chagas’ disease. With a few simple precautions against insects, you’ll greatly reduce their risk of exposure to these diseases.
- Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, good shoes, and a hat with a bandanna covering the neck. Lighter colors, especially white, seem to keep mosquitoes away.
- Spray your clothes with a permethrin-based spray, especially cuffs and sleeves. Spray the mosquito net over your bed with the spray as well and let it dry before sleeping.
- Apply a DEET-based solution when mosquitoes are present.
Accident & injury prevention:
- Wear work gloves when doing construction
- Wear sturdy sneakers and high thick socks when doing construction and walking around town or on dirt roads or off road.
- Follow directions when doing construction activities.
- Stay with the group. Don’t wander off by yourself. Use the buddy system and if you are a student participant, always have a designated mentor with you.
- If you are over 21 and drink alcohol, do so moderately. You are in a foreign country. You don’t want to embarrass yourself or the group and you don’t want to fall victim to those who may want to take advantage of a drunk tourist.
- Laws regarding illegal drugs are very strict in developing countries. Consider the risk.
Sexuality and relationships: Other cultures are very different from American culture including when it comes to relationships between the sexes. While you are very encouraged to make friends, be aware that what you may consider to be merely “friendly” may be misinterpreted. Be friendly, but be careful that you are not unconsciously sending the wrong signal.
- You will probably experience some jet lag tiredness. This may make you a little out of sorts. You can protect somewhat against this by making sure you sleep during the flight there.
- You can expect to see some things at Youthlinc international sites that you do not see in the U.S. such as individuals with physical handicaps unlike those we see in America. You may see men or women urinating in public. You may experience pit toilets, flies, filth and garbage in the streets, and other scenes of poverty. You may find these things disturbing.
- You will also encounter some physical inconveniences. You will be hard pressed to find a toilet that functions well or a shower with sufficient pressure or even hot water. There will be many inconveniences (such as a lack of electrical power) & delays that would seem unnecessary in the U.S.
- A Youthlinc experience is demanding both physically and psychologically because of dramatic change in environment and culture, and also because of the intense and busy nature of the service experience. It’s best to maintain a positive attitude, take breaks when needed, and tell the team leader(s) when you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or even homesick.