Think About Your Health Status
No one wants to miss or postpone a trip, but there are times when staying home might be best for health reasons. First, evaluate your health or the health of those traveling with you by using the guide below. Then, talk to your doctor. He or she will help you assess your situation and help you decide whether to postpone your trip.
In general, you should not travel by air if you:
- Will be taking a baby less than 48 hours (2 days) old
- Have passed 36 weeks of pregnancy (or 32 weeks if you are carrying twins, triplets, etc.)
- Have recently had any type of surgery, especially stomach, brain, eye, or orthopedic (bone and joint) surgery. Check with your doctor to see when it is safe for you to travel.
- Have had a recent stomach, eye, or head injury. Check with your doctor to see when it is safe for you to travel.
- Have had a recent heart attack or stroke
- Are suffering from:
- Chest pain
- Any disease that you can easily spread to other people (For a listing of infectious diseases, how they are spread, and how long someone is contagious, see Understand How Infectious Diseases Are Spread.)
- Swelling of the brain caused by bleeding, injury, or infection
- Severe sinus, ear, or nose infections
- Severe chronic respiratory diseases, breathlessness at rest, or a collapsed lung
- Sickle cell disease
- Psychotic illness except when fully controlled
- Have a fever of 100° F (38° C) or greater AND one or more of the following:
- Obvious signs of illness (e.g., severe headache, weakness, skin and eyes turning yellow)
- Skin rash
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Persistent, severe cough
- Confusion, especially if it has just started
- Bruising or bleeding (without previous injury)
- Diarrhea that does not go away
- Vomiting that does not go away (other than motion sickness)
Some airlines check for visibly sick passengers in the waiting area and during boarding. If you look like you may be sick, the airline may not let you get on the plane.
Important: If you are sick, check with your airline to see what options you have for rescheduling your flight.
Individuals with Special Considerations for International Travel
Some people may need to take extra care in considering travel or preparing for travel. If you find yourself in one of these categories, it is important to make sure the doctor advising you knows about your needs.
Babies and Small Children:
Traveling with children will require extra thought and planning. Many travel-related vaccinations and preventive medicines that are used for adults are not recommended for young children. Talk with your child’s doctor about your travel plans. He or she can give you recommendations on which vaccines or medicines are safe for your child. You may also want to consider bringing your child’s car seat, as the availability and quality of such seats abroad may be limited. You can learn more about this topic from the section Traveling Safely with Infants and Children.
Travelers Who Are Pregnant:
If you are pregnant, consult with both your obstetrician and a travel medicine doctor before making any travel decisions. Depending on your stage of pregnancy, preexisting medical conditions, and travel plans, you may want to take additional precautions or even postpone your trip. For example, if you are pregnant and have a serious pre-existing medical condition, it may not be wise to travel to developing countries. In general, the safest time for a pregnant woman to travel is during the second trimester (18-24 weeks). If you are in your third trimester, you should typically plan to stay within 300 miles of home to guarantee access to medical care if problems arise, such as high blood pressure, swelling, or going into labor three weeks or more before your due date (premature labor). Read more about health and vaccine recommendations during pregnancy in the section Planning for a Healthy Pregnancy and Traveling While Pregnant.
Travelers with Disabilities:
Generally, travelers with stable, ongoing disabilities should prepare for an international trip in much the same way as any other traveler would. However, if you have a disability and are planning an international trip, you should take three extra steps to ensure a safe and accessible trip.
- Consult with your travel agent or tour operator and make sure that resources are available to meet your needs.
- See a travel medicine doctor, or a doctor familiar with travel medicine, at least 4-6 weeks before you leave. He or she will tell you which vaccines or medicines you will need and give you additional recommendations that fit your needs.
- Research the resources available to people with disabilities in your destination. The following links are good places to start gathering this information:
Travelers with Weakened Immune Systems:
If your immune system is weakened from a disease such as HIV/AIDS or certain cancers, or from chemotherapy or medicines, talk to your doctor about the details of your travel plans. There may be added risks related to travel.
- If your current medical status is unstable or puts your health at serious risk, it may be recommended that you not travel or postpone your trip until you can travel more safely.
- Even if you can travel, you may or may not be able to have certain vaccines or take medications that are normally recommended for your destination or they may not be as effective.
- If you do get sick while traveling, your illness may be more severe or you may have added complications to your existing condition.
Make sure that you fully understand all the risks involved with your travel plans and any ways to protect your health that your doctor recommends before you go. To find out more, please visit the section The Immunocompromised Traveler.