Many people enjoy traveling. From food and activities, to experiencing new cultures, vacations can be fun and exciting! However, as we get caught up in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the trip, it is easy to forget there could be poisoning risks. The good news is there are things you can do to help prevent poisonings while traveling.
To save space and follow the TSA rules at airports, travelers often put medication or items such as lotion, mouthwash, and hand sanitizer in smaller containers. However, with no label, this creates the risk of mistaking the products for something safe to eat or drink and with no ingredients listed, it also poses a problem in the event that someone does get poisoned. Another poison risk is storing medicine in a purse, bag, or suitcase where children can easily get into it. Pills and candy often look alike and are easily confused by kids.
- Keep medicine and personal care products in original containers with child-resistant lids, and keep out of the reach of children. Purchase small, labeled products for air travel when possible.
- Do not store medication in suitcases and bags within reach of children.
- Keep a list of current medications in case you need to call the poison center for help.
- Inspect hotel rooms for pills or other harmful products that may have been left behind by previous visitors.
When travelers forget basic food safety, they put themselves at risk for food poisoning. Unsafe water can also be a source of illness while traveling.
- Avoid eating foods that have been kept at room temperature for more than two hours, or less than one hour if the temperature is above 90 °F. Harmful bacteria grows quickly between 40 °F and 140 °F. This temperature range is known as the "Danger Zone."
- Do not drink tap water in most middle and low-income countries, including swallowing water when showering or brushing your teeth. Use bottled or disinfected water.
Safety in the Great Outdoors
When camping, be aware that dangers such as bites, stings, plants, and mushrooms in the area could be a poison risk. Improper handling of food is also a common poisoning risk while camping.
- Do not eat plants, mushrooms, or berries in the wild. Teach children to always ask first before tasting anything.
- Do not touch wild animals…dead or alive as they may carry diseases such as rabies.
- When cooking outdoors, don’t use the same plate for raw food as you do for cooked food to avoid cross-contamination.
Call the Poison Control Center
When traveling internationally, check ahead to see if poison help services are available should you need them. If you or someone in your party has a poison exposure while traveling in the U.S., call the poison helpline at 1-800-222-1222. This is a national number that will connect you to a local poison center where free, expert advice is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Save the poison helpline number in your phone before leaving on your trip!
Sources: CDC, USDA
Author: Sherrie Pace, MS, MCHES® Health Educator, Outreach Coordinator, Utah Poison Control Center