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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to


With summer rapidly approaching many of us are thinking about vacations to some exotic part of the world. Although overseas travel has declined sharply since September 11 a resurgence in international leisure travel is on the horizon. Safety is and should be your primary concern, but of equal importance is your health.

Protect yourself against the common maladies that come with overseas travel, especially to underdeveloped countries. Illnesses like diarrhea, malaria, food poisoning and motion sickness has ruined many a vacation. If you’re heading to developed countries in Western Europe you should be relatively safe, but if you’re planning an African safari or your boss sends you to cover a possible war in the Middle East take precautions.

Rule 1, check with your health care provider or a travel-medicine specialist to get all the necessary immunizations for your particular destination. If you want to do a little research on your own about immunizations or other health related travel issues head to the Centers for Disease Control website at Also check with the World Health Organization at

According to Consumer Reports, the most common illnesses are actually the same ones you would get if you stayed home. Asthma or arthritis sufferers will have the same symptoms overseas that afflict them at home. Why? Because many people forget to pack the medications necessary to keep these common ailments at bay. So Rule 2, make sure you have an ample supply of all medications normally taken at home.

In fact you should pack your own medical kit. The kit should at a minimum include: antibiotics for diarrhea, respiratory infections, ointments for cuts and abrasions, hydrocortisone cream for bug bites, antihistamines, motion sickness drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and Acetaminophen. Also don’t forget first aid supplies like bandages, tape, a thermometer and an extra pair of those prescription eyeglasses.

Rule 3, watch what you eat and drink. Remember this, if you can’t boil it, cook it or peel it then forget it. Food that is cooked and hot when served is generally safe. Avoid raw foods, salads, uncooked vegetables, shellfish, unpasteurized milk and milk products. You might also want to eat fruit that you can peel yourself. Beware, just because you are staying at a luxury hotel in some of these underdeveloped countries doesn’t mean the food is safe. If you happen to be in an area with poor sanitation avoid drinking water or any drink served with ice. Stick to bottle water, bottled carbonated beverages or drinks made with boiling water such as coffee or tea.

And finally, find out what medical services your health insurance provider covers when traveling overseas. Some carriers cover just the basics and others cover absolutely nothing. For those plans that cover international travel read the fine print. Experts from the World Health Organization recommend buying medical assistance insurance especially when traveling to countries that pose significant health risks.

If you do happen to get sick and need medical attention check with the U.S. Consular office of the country you are visiting for a list of western doctors. You are responsible for the cost of health care but at least they can get you to the best doctors and notify family and friends back home on an emergency.