The worst time to encounter a medical problem is when we’re on holidays and we can’t speak the language. No one wants to have to find a pharmacy or be a hospital patient in a foreign country! Fortunately, there are a few things you can to do help ensure your spring break is as safe, healthy, and fun as possible.

Check Government Travel Advisories Early

Most governments offer health and safety notices about traveling to other countries. Check these several months as well as several days ahead of time to ensure you’re aware of any health concerns or safety issues that might restrict or prevent your travel. The Government of Canada shares their notices here. The Government of USA shares their notices here.

Visit a Travel Health Clinic Early

Every country has different standards when it comes to food and personal sanitation. You may need to get vaccines or other types of health and medical care up to six months before you travel. You can find a comprehensive list of outlets providing travel care across Canada here. You may have to pay out of pocket for some of these but it costs far less to prevent a serious illness than to treat one.

Bring a Health and/or First Aid Kit

Especially if you’re traveling to a country where you don’t know the language and customs, bring some basic health and safety items with you. In addition to any implements (e.g., syringes, testing strips) and medications you may already be taking, bring bandages, hand sanitizer, antiseptic, tweezers, insect repellent, as well as medication for allergies, diarrhea, motion sickness, cold and flu, pain, stomach problems, and high-altitude sickness. Johns Hopkins has an excellent list of items for a travel first aid kit, as does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And then, even if you’re well equipped, take a few minutes upon arrive at your destination to locate the nearest pharmacy. Always be prepared!

Watch What You Eat

It can be hard to know what’s safe to eat. A good rule of thumb is ‘boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it.’ And if you aren’t 100% sure about the tap water, bottled water is your friend for drinking, brushing your teeth, washing your hands, and washing your food. The World Health Organization has a great pamphlet summarizing what you should be aware of and the CDC has safety tips for specific food items like street food, milk, juice, and ice.

Be Sun Safe

As much as we all love to bask in the sun get a nice tan, the sun isn’t always our friend. Everyone can suffer from heat stroke, and older people and children are even more vulnerable. Everyone should take a Victorian approach to the sun. If you’re going to be in the water a lot, wear sleeved swimming gear that protects your arms, neck, and body from the sun, and keeps sunscreen out of the water. If you’re going to lay on the beach, lather on the sunscreen regularly. The Canadian Dermatology Association has some great tips for skin care and the CDC has great tips for families.

There are lots of trustworthy resources on the internet. If you do a bit of homework first, your vacation is much more likely to be safe, healthy, and lots of fun!


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