Quiz: Do You Know How to Travel Safely?

Jet lag in London, mosquito bites in Madrid, Montezuma's revenge in Acapulco, an emergency medical bill in Nepal -- the perils are enough to scare would-be travelers into tossing away those glossy brochures. But a little knowledge and planning can stave off many a trip's unhealthy side effects. To test your travel smarts, take our quiz.

1. You probably already know that the direction you fly can influence the severity of your jet lag. But which direction generally produces the worst jet lag?

a. West

b. East

c. South

d. North

2. Which of these is a good way to counter the effects of jet lag?

a. Keep your watch set on the time back home

b. Take a long nap as soon as you arrive

c. Have a few alcoholic drinks on the plane so you'll relax and sleep

d. None of the above

3. If you're in Scotland and need an ambulance, you can call 911. True or false?

True

False

4. If your health insurance plan covers doctor's bills and hospital stays overseas, buying a supplementary insurance policy for travelers is a waste of money. True or false?

True

False

5. Boiling drinking water is considered the safest way to avoid getting traveler's diarrhea from contaminated water. Which of the following is another reliable method?

a. Treating the water with iodine

b. Freezing the water to make ice

c. Drinking bottled water

d. All of the above

6. If you're trying to avoid motion sickness on a flight, which seat should you ask for?

a. A seat toward the back of the plane

b. A seat over the wings

c. A seat toward the front of the plane

d. No seat is better than any other

7. To lower your chances of contracting malaria and other blood-borne diseases, which is the best strategy for warding off insect bites?

a. Use scented hair sprays, deodorants, and soaps, which repel insects

b. Wear dark clothing

c. Swim only in freshwater ponds and lakes

d. None of the above

8. Which of the following vaccinations should every traveler have before going abroad?

a. Tetanus/diphtheria

b. Cholera

c. Hepatitis A

d. All of the above

9. If you get sick in a foreign country, the U.S. embassy or consulate can help with which of the following?

a. Alerting your family and friends back home to your condition

b. Locating an English-speaking doctor or an appropriate medical facility

c. Getting emergency funds transferred from the United States

d. All of the above

Your Results

1. You probably already know that the direction you fly can influence the severity of your jet lag. But which direction generally produces the worst jet lag?

The correct answer is: b. East

When flying eastward, you're more likely to encounter darkness when you arrive, which can disrupt the body's circadian rhythms, or inner clock. (Jet lag is the disorientation that results from crossing time zones in a short period of time, and exposure to light seems to lessen it.) Most travelers also find it harder to wake up when they come to the East Coast from the West because of the three-hour time difference (it's easier to stay up late, however). Assuming you cross no time zones, you shouldn't suffer jet lag at all flying north to south or vice versa -- though you may still feel the ill effects of a long flight, which can include fatigue, upset stomach, and swollen feet.

2. Which of these is a good way to counter the effects of jet lag?

The correct answer is: d. None of the above

The trick to overcoming jet lag is to get acclimated as soon as possible. Set your watch on destination time while you're still in the air, avoid napping (don't sleep until it's bedtime where you're going), and skip alcoholic drinks while flying since they can disrupt normal sleep patterns and dehydrate you. Instead, drink plenty of water and move around as much as you can on the plane.

3. If you're in Scotland and need an ambulance, you can call 911. True or false?

The correct answer is: False

People in the U. K. call 112 or 999 for police, fire, and ambulance services. The United Kingdom actually developed its emergency phone number system three decades before the United States initiated 911 service. Other countries with emergency phone services include Belgium (112 or 101), Mexico (065, ambulance; 068 fire; 060 police), and Japan (119, ambulance or fire; 110 police).

4. If your health insurance plan covers doctor's bills and hospital stays overseas, buying a supplementary insurance policy for travelers is a waste of money. True or false?

The correct answer is: False

Even if they cover foreign doctors and hospitals, few standard health insurance plans will pay for medical evacuation (flying you back to the United States if you're seriously injured), which can run to thousands of dollars. Another problem: Overseas doctors and hospitals often won't accept direct payments from U.S. insurance companies, so you may have to fork over the cash, then wait for reimbursement. Supplemental travel policies can save the day in such emergencies and should come with a phone number you can call 24 hours a day for assistance.

5. Boiling drinking water is considered the safest way to avoid getting traveler's diarrhea from contaminated water. Which of the following is another reliable method?

The correct answer is: a. Treating the water with iodine

Iodine tablets are effective in most cases, though not all. (Treating water with chlorine can also work, but it's less reliable than iodine.) Freezing water, on the other hand, not only doesn't kill bacteria but may preserve them. Drinking bottled water is fine if it's carbonated, but locally bottled waters may have come straight from the tap -- a common scam in some countries. The safest drinks are bottled carbonated water, soft drinks, bottled beer and wine, and coffee or tea made with boiled water.

6. If you're trying to avoid motion sickness on a flight, which seat should you ask for?

The correct answer is: b. A seat over the wings

In any vehicle, the best seats for warding off motion sickness are the most stable ones. In a car, it's the front seat. (Many safety experts warn against putting young children in the front of a car, however. Instead, secure your child in a backseat high enough to let him see out the window, and, if he tends to get carsick and your pediatrician says it's okay, give him antihistamines to make him drowsy.)

7. To lower your chances of contracting malaria and other blood-borne diseases, which is the best strategy for warding off insect bites?

The correct answer is: b. Wear dark clothing

Insects are attracted to bright-colored clothing, strong scents, and freshwater ponds and lakes.

8. Which of the following vaccinations should every traveler have before going abroad?

The correct answer is: a. Tetanus/diphtheria

Everyone -- including nontravelers -- should be vaccinated against tetanus and diphtheria and get a booster shot every 10 years. Cholera shots are often ineffective and usually given only during outbreaks. Hepatitis A vaccinations are frequently advised, but not always (depending on your destination, age, planned activities, and other factors). Check with your doctor at least eight weeks before you go to talk about the immunizations you'll need and any medications you might need to take along (for malaria, for example).

9. If you get sick in a foreign country, the U.S. embassy or consulate can help with which of the following?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

You can get help with contacting loved ones, finding medical care, and accessing stateside accounts -- just don't expect U.S. government representatives to lend you any greenbacks themselves.

References

Air Travel Health Tips. American Academy of Family Physicians.

Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad U.S. Department of State.

Santa Clara County Fire Department. International 911 and Emergency Numbers.

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