Common sense can help you avoid common health risks

Summer is right around the corner, and with warmer weather comes travel plans to new and exciting destinations around the world. If the 2016 Summer Olympics are on your travel radar, you’ve already begun to make plans for a trip to Rio de Janeiro in sunny Brazil. You’ve scheduled the flight, found the perfect swimsuit and booked a hotel right in the middle of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

But are you prepared for everything that might come your way? Whether you’re traveling across the country or across the world, it’s important to put your health first and be ready for the potential risks of summer travel. Here are a few tips to stay healthy this summer.

Plan for the Sun

While traveling in the summer months, the sun can be your best friend and worst enemy. Stay safe and plan for the dangerous potential of too much sun. If you’re traveling to a warm place—such as South America for the Olympics or Miami’s South Beach for some fun in the sun—heat exhaustion can sneak up on you unexpectedly. Be aware of the risks of sun exposure and take measures to limit it. Here are a few travel pointers for sunny locales:

•Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from harsh ultraviolet light. Purchase sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF), and apply it each day before beginning your daily activities.
•Stay hydrated. In hot weather, dehydration is extremely dangerous. You may not feel thirsty until you’re already dehydrated. Carry bottled water, and use an additive such as Emergen-C to provide essential vitamins and minerals.
•Pack lightweight clothing. Sweat evaporates and cools the surface of your skin, but with heavy clothing, this process is stifled and only makes you hotter. Wear lightweight, loose clothing to allow for breathability and your body’s natural cooling abilities. Blue and red clothing enhances sun protection.

Avoid Contagions

One of the greatest health risks while traveling is foreign contagions that can cause life-threatening illnesses. From airplane travel to the food you eat, there’s a strong possibility of falling ill while abroad. Take immune system supplements to avoid the common cold, particularly if you plan to be among large groups of people.

One of the most common illnesses affecting vacationers is “traveler’s diarrhea,” a disorder caused by eating or drinking contaminated food and water. To protect yourself from traveler’s diarrhea:

•Use hand sanitizer, in addition to washing hands
•Skip ice cubes in your beverages
•Wash fruit and vegetables with bottled water
•Eat a meatless diet

Protect Against Insects

Mosquitoes and other flying insects are not only pesky; they can also be dangerous. There is a lot of concern today about traveling to Brazil and other tropical destinations because of the Zika virus. Known to cause birth defects if contracted during pregnancy, this painful, mosquito-borne virus is a significant risk for traveling families. To reduce your risk of contracting the Zika virus and other similarly transmitted viruses:

•Use EPA-registered insect repellent
•Wear protective clothing
•Treat your clothing with permethrin and wash it with insect-repelling detergent

Eat Right While On the Go

It’s difficult to maintain balanced nutrition when traveling. From the airport to your hotel kitchenette, to the streets of Rio, it’s vital that you eat well and often. Unfortunately, this can be inconvenient and expensive, so pack nutritious snacks that can make it through customs and easily be carried in your travel pack. Some great ideas for travel snacks include:

•Trail mix
•Clif Bars and other nutritional bars
•Dried fruit and whole fruit with peel
•Sealed nuts

Nourishing snacks will replenish energy and keep you on your feet throughout the entire travel itinerary. As a rule of thumb, pack only the snacks needed to fuel your body—not what you think will satisfy your sweet tooth or other cravings. This will keep your pack light and help avoid a sugar crash early in the day.

Bon Voyage

Wherever you are headed, make the most of summer travels. Traveling to the Summer Olympics is the trip of a lifetime, so don’t let your travels be derailed by common risks that can be avoided by using common sense. From eating right and using sun protection to avoiding common illnesses, these tips will help you enjoy yourself and make the most of the trip. Safe travels on your summer vacation!

dr-ernest-brownDr. Ernest Brown believes medicine should be patient-focused. He founded Doctors to You, an on-demand medical service offering traditional, house-call-style care for patients in Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia. Visit or follow the doctors at