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Travel Like a Pro: How to Stay Healthy

Tackle everything from jet lag to malaria (and those pesky mosquitoes) with our guide to staying healthy abroad.

What to Do Before You Leave | Tips for En Route | When You Get There | How to Stay Healthy | Etiquette On the Trail | For the Extreme Traveler

How can I beat jet lag?
Adjust your schedule to match your destination’s time zone starting two days before departure, says Gordon Jannow, an Alpine Ascents International mountain guide with 23 years of experience jetting to big peaks in China and Nepal. If you’re flying east, get up and go to bed three hours earlier than usual; if west, make it three hours later. If arriving in the morning, snooze on the plane so you can power through the first day and get on the local schedule–relaxing music, Ambien, Tylenol PM, or valerian root can help put you to sleep in flight. Avoid alcohol; it may be a depressant, but it interferes with REM sleep patterns.

Vaccinations
Read our quicksheet for the basics on the must-have shots across the world, then check with your doctor four to six weeks before departure to get country-specific vaccinations dialed in; visit who.int or cdc.gov/travel for more information. (Exception: Hepatitis A shots need to begin six months before departure.) No matter where you’re headed, make sure routine shots (MMR, Tdap) are up to date.

  DISEASE VACCINE WHO NEEDS IT
YELLOW FEVER A mosquito-borne virus whose symptoms range from a flu-like syndrome to hemorrhagic fever One shot at least 10 days before departure (lasts 10 years) Required for some areas (like sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America)
MENINGOCOCCAL A sudden-onset
bacterial infection spread through
coughing and saliva
One shot at least two weeks before departure (lasts at least three years) Recommended for Africa (and required by Saudi Arabia
during the Hajj
pilgrimage)
JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS A mosquito-borne, potentially fatal virus Three shots beginning 30 days before departure (lasts two years) Recommended for Asia (especially for hikers and campers)
HEPATITIS A A viral liver infection transmitted through contaminated food or water Three shots beginning six months before departure (good for life) Recommended for developing countries (parts of Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa)
TYPHOID FEVER A life-threatening
bacterial infection spread through
contaminated food
or water
Four capsules taken orally, beginning two weeks pre-trip. (Note: It’s only 50 to 80 percent effective–be careful about what you eat and drink. Lasts five years.) Recommended for all developing countries (especially South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central/South America)
RABIES An acute virus transmitted through animal bites (especially dogs and bats) Three shots beginning 28 days before departure (good for life, but you’ll need a booster if you travel frequently to high-risk areas) Recommended for anyone hiking or camping in developing countries (especially China and India)
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