Photo by Li Fei on Unsplash

By Lisa Profera MD

No one wants to get sick on vacation. Planning ahead and being proactive is the key to minimizing that risk.

Staying healthy on vacation starts weeks before your trip begins. Whether you’re traveling within the continental US or further away, it’s wise to check the latest travel recommendations and alerts posted on the Centers for Disease Control website: Certain vaccines are recommended or required for travel to or from remote areas, so you may need to see a doctor or even visit a travel clinic weeks in advance of your departure. You can also enter your destination into the website and get the latest information on local outbreaks and other travel alerts.

Supporting your immune system with a good probiotic even before you embark on your journey can be beneficial. Using good handwashing techniques or a good hand sanitizer is an important preventative measure. When I’m seated on the airplane, the first thing I do is wipe down all surfaces, including the seatbelt buckle, tray table, touch screens, and armrests. The same hand-sanitizing measures apply to other public places such as restrooms, restaurants, stores, cruise ships, etc. 

Do you clean your hands after you’ve touched a menu, before you eat? When eating in more remote parts of the world, taking extra precautions with food and water sources can make a huge difference. Contracting traveler’s diarrhea, the flu, or other illnesses can really ruin your trip. When traveling in areas where the risk of a diarrheal illness is high (most of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, Central and South America), the CDC recommends that you “choose food and drinks carefully. Eat only foods that are cooked and served hot. Avoid food that has been sitting on a buffet. Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you have washed them in clean water or peeled them. Only drink beverages from factory-sealed containers, and avoid ice because it may have been made from unclean water.”

The CDC Traveler’s Health website provides excellent general information about avoiding getting sick. It also contains information regarding special travel circumstances: pregnancy, traveling with small children, and tips for those with chronic illness or immune deficiency. In addition, there is specific information about different circumstances, such as traveling on a cruise ship or hiking at higher altitudes. Check the disease directory for areas of risk.

Planning to go somewhere warm for Spring Break? Please be aware of the increased risk of mosquito-borne illnesses (Zika virus, chikungunya, and dengue fever) in warm places like Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Consider taking mosquito-avoidance precautions as outlined by the CDC — wear proper clothing and avoid exposure when the mosquitos are out (dawn and dusk). The CDC recommends DEET (a potential neurotoxin) or Picardin (which kills fish) for repelling mosquitos. As an alternative to DEET, the CDC recommends lemon eucalyptus oil. The brands that are registered with the FDA, such as Repel and Off Botanicals, contain a synthetic copy of lemon eucalyptus oil and not a pure, whole essential oil. I prefer to use natural products over synthetic chemicals whenever possible, so the brand I use is doTERRA® Lemon Eucalyptus oil or the blend called TerraShield*. Both are safe for all ages and are highly effective.

Proper sunscreen should always be used, even here in Michigan, but remember to be extra cautious when travelling south. The sun’s rays can be more intense, and the risk of sunburn is higher the closer to the equator you are. In general, I prefer reef-friendly sunscreens. There are some destinations like Hawaii that have banned the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate found in many popular brands. These chemicals kill coral. Sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are considered safe. My favorite brand is made by BeautyCounter**. Their sunscreen does the job very well without the usual harmful chemicals.

Last but not least, I want to say a word about mental health. This is your vacation — don’t stress yourself out by over-doing or over-scheduling. Get away from electronics and reminders of work.

Sit back, relax, enjoy the beautiful place you are in. Take some deep breaths, smell the fresh air, and admire the landscape. Be present in your own mind or with friends and family. Keep yourself and your family members healthy so that you can enjoy every minute. Have a wonderful time, you deserve it!



Owner and Founder of PROJUVU MD

Aesthetics and Lifestyle Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI

doTERRA Essential Oils Wellness Advocate

BEMER Independent Distributor


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