Part 1 – Research Your Destination
To avoid vacation hazards you need to plan for fun, and prepare for the worst!
Summertime means vacation for many U.S. families. Whether you’re spending your summer staying close to home or traveling afar, do some research to discover the health risks and available medical services where you’re going.
Geographically Localized Illnesses
Are there diseases or illnesses common to the location? How can you avoid vacation hazards like these serious illnesses?
Lyme Disease: Caused by deer tick bites, Lyme disease is prevalent in the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. Ticks are found in woodlands and grassy areas, and are active between May and August. To avoid Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases such as babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Powassan virus:
- Avoid contact with tall shrubs and long grass: walk in the center of trails and/or wear long-sleeved shirts and pants tucked into socks/hiking boots.
- Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent containing 20-30% DEET. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is also a non-toxic, organic option for repelling mosquitoes.
- Apply permethrin to tents, sleeping bags and outside clothing, but not on skin.
- After being in grassy or wooded areas, do a tick check. Bring an adhesive lint roller and roll it over clothing and skin. Shower and scrub all areas of the body.
- Remove ticks with tweezers at the head, pull upward carefully. Clean the area with soap and water and alcohol/antiseptic.
- If you develop a “bullseye” rash – an expanding red circle with a lighter center, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.
Yellow fever is found in South America and Africa. A serious disease spread by mosquito bites, it can cause fever, flu-like symptoms, jaundice (yellow skin/eyes), bleeding, and even organ failure and death. If traveling to risky areas, have a yellow fever vaccine before traveling; proof of vaccination may be required to enter certain countries. Also, see the below advice to prevent mosquito bites.
Dengue fever: This viral disease is also spread by mosquito bites. It’s common in Southeast Asia and Pacific islands, and in the Caribbean and Latin America. Symptoms include fever, severe headache, muscle/joint pain, and rash. There is no vaccine – avoid it by using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and treating clothing and gear with permethrin, which kills mosquitoes on contact. Keep doors and windows closed, use mosquito netting, and avoid areas with standing water, especially at dawn or dusk.
Zika virus: Also spread by mosquito bites, the Zika virus can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome and severe birth defects if pregnant women contract it. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for Zika travel information. Follow the advice above to avoid mosquitos.
Malaria: Also spread through mosquito bites, malaria is common in tropical/subtropical areas. Start taking malaria-prevention tablets a week or two before travel. Ask your doctor to recommend the right medication, especially if you are pregnant or take other medications. Follow the advice to avoid mosquito bites.
Norovirus is highly contagious and common on cruise ships. To avoid it, wash your hands often with soap and warm water, and/or use hand sanitizer, especially after touching shared bathroom fixtures, doorknobs, and handrails. Avoid the buffet or food that’s been sitting out.
Flu: Receive the latest flu vaccine before your vacation, and practice good sanitation habits, as described above for avoiding Norovirus. See your doctor for an antiviral drug prescription you can take if symptoms start.
Diarrhea: Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by bacteria in food and water. High-risk destinations are Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America. Non-pregnant adults can reduce their risk by taking two Pepto-Bismol tablets four times a day. Drink bottled water; avoid drinking tap water, well water, or unpasteurized milk. Practice good sanitation habits.
Besides insects, other forms of wildlife can ruin your vacation. To avoid vacation hazards, you need to avoid spiders, snakes, sharks, jellyfish, black bears, and other dangerous animals. Research wildlife you may encounter where you’re going; learn local laws and regulations to avoid contact and injury. Many parks have food storage requirements to protect bears and humans. Know and follow the requirements and recommendations.
Spider and snake bites can also be dangerous. Shake out your sleeping bags, gloves, and shoes before using them. Wear thick hiking boots and long pants when walking in tall shrubs and long grass. Insect repellent with DEET is also effective for spiders.
In general, keep your distance from all wild animals, even if they look cute and friendly. Animals are unpredictable, and even small animals can be dangerous.
Crime or Political Unrest
Vacationers are frequent crime victims, and this can be especially traumatic when you are unfamiliar with the laws and customs. To avoid the vacation hazard of being a crime victim:
- Stay aware of your surroundings
- Don’t drink to excess
- Keep an eye on your drink
- Don’t drive if you’ve been drinking
- Keep your cash, credit cards, passport, and wallet safe
- Contact your credit card company before you travel so your card is not suspended for suspected fraud
Before traveling abroad, check the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories. If your destination is high-risk, follow these recommendations. Even if your destination is listed as safe, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
When traveling out of the country, know that you are subject to the laws where you’re visiting. The State Department may be unable to help if you break the law, so know what you legally can and cannot do in your destination country. Go to this site for more information on victim services and victim assistance for U.S. citizens traveling overseas.
Extreme weather or natural disasters
Check whether any extreme weather is common in your destination for the time you’ll be visiting. Understand the types of natural disasters that may occur there, and have a plan for what to do if something happens.
If you are injured this summer as the result of another person’s actions or carelessness, whether you’re on vacation or at home, you may be entitled to monetary damages.
If your injury is due to unsanitary conditions at a hotel, restaurant or cruise ship, or caused by negligent security or poor emergency services, call TorkLaw. Our personal injury attorneys are experienced in obtaining injury and crime victims compensation for their losses.
We hope you’re able to avoid vacation hazards and don’t need to contact us this summer. But know that TorkLaw is here for you if needed.