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Stay Healthy While Traveling

Created: 08/01/2011
Last Updated: 03/11/2014

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You've renewed your passport and loaded up on tiny bottles of shampoo and lotions in an effort to travel light. And whatever's forgotten can be picked up at a local pharmacy…right? Think again.

Traveling abroad can sometimes mean a new set of personal hygiene and health regulations, but until caught in a pinch, many female travelers may be unaware that some routine, domestic practices are not so easily taken care of when in a foreign land.

"No one ever wants to get sick, but on vacation and away from home is the worst," says Phyllis Stoller, founder of the Women's Travel Club, the leading tour operator for women and women's organizations in North America and a strategic partner of the national, nonprofit organization HealthyWomen. "Follow some practical tips on travel health and you can avoid the Parisian hotel doctor or the lost time in a Rome hotel bed."

Here are Stoller's Top 3 Things to Consider in Women's Health:

  1. Safe sex, even with your partner: Carry birth control pills; don't pack them, in case your luggage gets lost. Bring trustworthy condoms; local products may be inferior. If you use a diaphragm, wash it with bottled water unless you're sure of the purity of the local water supply.
  2. Yeast infections and UTIs: Female travelers can get urinary tract infections (UTIs) from skimping on drinking water. Yeast infections also may occur if you're taking antibiotics. Carry Monistat, Canesten cream or a single-dose tablet, Diflucan. Eat live-culture yogurt if available and always drink plenty of bottled water.
  3. Menstruating overseas: Tampons are not sold in many countries, and pads are sometimes sold from a long roll and cut by a pharmacist, which may not be sanitary. Bring your own supplies.

Stoller developed these tips in conjunction with ID CARE, a network of infectious disease specialists.

Being prepared and proactive about your health at home and abroad is key, says Elizabeth Battaglino, RN, executive director for HealthyWomen, the nation's leading independent health information source for women, which has been providing trusted health and wellness advice for over 20 years.

"You may feel like you're traveling with a small pharmacy but the benefits to having what you need, when you need it outweigh the inconvenience of purchasing, packing and checking some domestic supplies," says Battaglino. "The bottom line is, put your health, not your packing concerns, as a priority."

For more tips on living healthy, visit HealthyWomen.org.