Bad weather, lost luggage, and cancelled flights usually top the list of things that could spoil a summer vacation.
However, there is another potential peril that could endanger any vacation that is often overlooked – a health problem. And unlike many other causes for concern, the potential for injury or illness is something that can be prepared for and perhaps even prevented.
Healthy travel during the summer means more than just packing plenty of sunscreen and mosquito spray, according to Josh Martak, MD, family practice physician on the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie medical staff. Though, he says, those items are critically important to have on hand for any summer trip.
“Bring other essentials like Motrin, cold medicine and Tylenol in a little travel kit to help with any fever or pain that might pop- up,” says Dr. Martak. “Also, make sure you pack appropriate attire for where you’re going, and that includes clothes for rain and cold, as well as warm weather clothes.”
But long before you start packing, much of the work for a healthy vacation is in the planning.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
“If you haven’t had a check-up in a while, getting to the doctor about the time you are booking your trip may be a good idea,” says Dr. Martak. This is especially true for older people and those with health problems.
Rather than waiting until right before leaving, visiting a doctor a few months before a big trip may leave ample time to address any hidden health issues that might be uncovered, as well as ensure all prescriptions are adequately filled, and any needed vaccinations (particularly for travel to the developing world) can be administered. Keep in mind that some vaccinations may require multiple injections over several weeks.
During the planning process for an international excursion, Dr. Martak also recommends visiting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
“The CDC has a really great website with tons of information on what illnesses may be in a particular area, what vaccines you may need and details on some of the other health issues we don’t typically see here,” he explains.
Additional planning for global travel should include:
» Finding information on how to access the local health system, which may vary greatly from country to country.
» Researching relevant local contact information that may be needed during a health emergency.
» For people with chronic health issues especially heart or respiratory problems exploring getting medical evacuation insurance for emergency medical transportation.
WHILE YOU ARE AWAY
In addition to packing a variety of over- the-counter medications, keeping not only prescription medications but copies of the actual prescription in a carry-on bag can help avoid any questions and mitigate the chances that vital medications become lost.
For any long trips, it’s important to keep at least a little mobile.
“The big thing we always recommend looking out for is blood clots if you’re going to be on a long flight or sitting in a car for a long time,” advises Dr. Martak. “Make sure you are stretching your legs often in the car and getting up and walking, even if it’s just down the aisle of the plane.”
While there is certainly a temptation to be more adventurous while on vacation, for families with small children, avoiding that temptation when it comes to eating is probably a good idea.
“Stick to a fairly similar diet as to what they are used to,” says Dr. Martak. He advises that all Americans, regardless of age, should probably do the same should they be traveling to developing countries. “Don’t get too adventurous, especially with fresh fruits and vegetables because that’s often how parasites and illnesses are spread.”
Perhaps one of the best things to do to avoid germs and illness is to frequently wash hands, especially in public places. If traveling with kids, plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes are a must.
Remember, vacations are supposed to be fun, and being sick never is.