As March approaches, many spring breakers will be looking forward to sunny destinations and a long week of relaxation. Some may travel to tropical hot spots, like Cancun or islands in the Caribbean, while others may opt for bustling cities, like Amsterdam or Bangkok. Not all spring break destinations are created equal: Some have specific health risks that you should be aware of.
Before you go
- Find out about vaccines needed and any other health concerns at your destination.
- Visit a travel medicine specialist or your healthcare provider at least 1 month before you leave the United States.
- Pack smart and prepare a travel health kit with the items you may need on your trip, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, insect repellent, sunscreen, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and condoms.
- Find out if your health insurance covers medical care abroad—many plans don’t! Consider additional insurance that covers health care and emergency evacuation, especially if you will be traveling to remote areas.
- Check the US Department of State website for information on security risks. Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so the US embassy or consulate can contact you in an emergency.
Health Risks and Outbreaks
- Many popular spring break destinations throughout the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Pacific Islands, and Mexico still have a risk of Zika. Because Zika can cause birth defects and is spread by mosquitoes as well as sex, travelers to areas with risk of Zika should (1) prevent mosquito bites and (2) use condoms or not have sex to protect against Zika during and after travel. Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with risk of Zika. Check the CDC’s Zika Travel Information page to find out if there is a risk of Zika at your destination and how to protect yourself and others during and after travel.
- Travelers to the Caribbean should be aware that some islands may not have recovered from the damage caused by the 2017 hurricanes. See Hurricanes Irma and Maria travel notice for more information.
- Be aware that the United States and other countries have reported widespread outbreaks of influenza (flu) this season. It’s not too late to get your yearly flu shot. Stay clear of people who are coughing or otherwise appear to be ill, and wash your hands often with soap and water.
- There are outbreaks of measles and mumps in popular destinations in Europe (England, Italy, Greece) and New Zealand. In the United States, most measles cases result from exposures during international travel. Make sure you are up to date on the MMR (measles, mumps, & rubella) vaccine and other routine vaccines, including the yearly flu shot.
- Cruise ship outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea, primarily caused by norovirus, have been reported. Don’t let this virus ruin your trip. The best way to prevent illness is frequent handwashing with soap and water.
During Your Trip
- Be careful when indulging in the local cuisine. In developing countries, eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot. Do not eat fresh vegetables or fruits unless you can peel them yourself. Drink only bottled, sealed beverages, and steer clear of ice—it was probably made with tap water. Get food and water advice in CDC’s Can I Eat This? app to avoid spending your vacation in the bathroom.
- Don’t leave your healthy habits at home—“what happens on spring break stays on spring break” may imply that taking risks is expected, but you should always play it safe when it comes to your health.
- Use condoms to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Read more about preventing STDs on the Traveler STD page.
- Avoid getting tattoos or piercings to prevent infections such as those caused by HIV and hepatitis B virus.
- Use insect repellent to protect against diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as Zika, dengue, and malaria. Read more about how to prevent mosquito bites.
- Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher when outdoors. Remember that sun protection isn’t just for the beach—you can get a sunburn even if it’s cloudy or cold!
- Use a reputable travel guide or tour company if you plan on doing any adventure travel activities like reef diving, surfing, or zip-lining.
- Choose safe transportation. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among healthy travelers. Always wear a seat belt and ride only in marked taxis or ride-sharing vehicles. Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left.
After You Return
- If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. You may have picked up a virus or other infection during your trip, even though you do not have symptoms until you return. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, find a clinic here. Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. This will help your doctor understand your symptoms to consider infections that are rarely found in the United States.
- If you have traveled to an area with risk of Zika
- Take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after your trip, even if you don’t feel sick, so that you don’t spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes back home that can spread the virus to other people. You should also use condoms for at least 2 months (women) or 6 months (men) after your return to protect your sex partner(s) from getting Zika through sex.
- If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor or nurse about your recent travel, even if you don’t have symptoms. Your doctor or nurse will decide if and when to test you for Zika.
Wherever your travels take you this spring break, stay healthy and safe with these tips from CDC Travelers’ Health.