International travelers should always be extra concerned about their health and safety. Here is essential information on travel health risks and preventive measures to keep you and your loved ones safe during your travels.
Eat and drink safely
The most common illnesses among travelers are generally caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Always take precautions with food and water to avoid getting sick.
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Eating and drinking:
- Boil it, cook it, peel it or leave it!
- Always wash your hands before eating or preparing food. It is also important to remember to wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or having contact with animals or sick people.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. It’s a good idea to always keep some with you when you travel.
- Only eat foods that are well cooked and served hot. Avoid food served at room temperature.
- Avoid raw or undercooked (rare) meats and fish, including shellfish.
- Only eat fruits and vegetables if you have washed them in safe water or peeled them yourself.
- Avoid salads or other items that are made with fresh produce.
- Avoid food from street vendors.
- Drink water only if it has been boiled or disinfected or if it is in a commercially sealed bottle.
- Use ice made only from purified or disinfected water.
- Commercially sealed beverages in cans or bottles and served unopened, such as carbonated drinks, and drinks made with boiled water and served steaming hot, such as coffee and tea, are generally safe.
- Brush your teeth with purified or bottled water.
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and fruit juices.
Swimming and bathing:
- Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated. You can get sick if you inhale or swallow it while bathing, showering or swimming.
- Try to avoid getting water into your mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes) or water in pools or hot tubs, which may not be adequately treated.
Water Treatment Methods
To ensure that water is safe to drink, there are several water treatment methods available for travelers. These methods include boiling, using chemical disinfectants, portable water filtration devices or ultraviolet light.
|Portable Filtration Devices|
|Ultraviolet (UV) light|
Click to get find information, symptoms, risks and how to prevent, treat and manage human diseases and illnesses.
Travel Health Kit
Why should I take a health kit when travelling?
A basic travel health kit is important no matter where you travel. First aid supplies and medications may not always be readily available in other countries or may be different from those available in Canada.
A good travel health kit contains enough supplies to prevent illness, handle minor injuries and illnesses, and manage pre-existing medical conditions for longer than the duration of your trip.
What should I pack in my travel health kit?
Basic First Aid Items
It is essential to know how and when to use the first aid supplies in your kit. You may consider taking a first aid course before you travel.
You may want to include:
- Adhesive bandages (multiple sizes) and adhesive tape
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Antiseptic wound cleanser (for example, alcohol or iodine pads)
- Blister pads or moleskin
- Disposable latex or vinyl gloves
- Packets of oral rehydration salts
- Safety pins and scissors
- Tensor bandages for sprains
- Tweezers for removing ticks, splinters etc.
Traveling with Medications
Discuss the use of medications with your health care provider before departure and carefully follow the directions for use, including dosage and when to seek medical care. Bring more than enough medication to last your entire trip.
Here is a basic list of medications to be included in your travel health kit:
- Any prescription or over-the-counter medication you normally use
- 1% hydrocortisone cream to treat minor skin irritation, such as itching caused by bug bites or poison ivy
- Allergy medication, such as an antihistamine, or epinephrine prescribed by your doctor, such as an Epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen®)
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Anti-motion sickness medication
- Antifungal and antibacterial ointments or creams to apply to wounds to prevent infection.
- Cold and flu medications, such as decongestants, cough suppressants or throat lozenges
- Pain and fever medication, such as acetylsalicylic acid (e.g., Aspirin®), ibuprofen (e.g., Advil®), or acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®)
- Stomach and intestinal medication, such as antacids and laxatives
- If recommended, destination-specific medication, like those for malaria or high-altitude sickness
- If you need to use needles or syringes, take more than enough to last for your entire trip and carry a medical certificate from your health care provider explaining that the needles or syringes are for medical use.
Carry a card with the following information in case of a medical emergency:
- Name, address, and phone number of a family member or friend in Canada
- Name and phone number of your health care provider in Canada
- Address and phone number of your accommodations at your destination(s)
- Address and phone number of hospitals or clinics at your destination(s)
- Address and phone number of the Canadian Embassy, Consulate, or High Commission in your destination country/countries (you might also consider carrying the Emergency Contact Card)
- Emergency contact phone number from your travel health insurance provider
Before you go, don’t forget to register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service and stay connected to Canada in case of an emergency abroad or at home.
Proof of Your Insurance Coverage
Always carry proof of your health insurance coverage when travelling. Consult our page on travel insurance for more information.
Carry a copy of your immunization record in your travel health kit. Include your original International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis for yellow fever, if you have one.
You may include these items depending on personal preference, destination, and activities:
- Aloe gel for sunburns
- Adequate supply of condoms
- Ear plugs to reduce noise or stop contaminated water from entering the ear canal
- Extra pair of glasses or contacts (or a copy of your prescription)
- Insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin
- Mosquito net
- Saline eye drops
- Water purification filter or tablets