Summer Wellness: Stay Healthy While Traveling
Whether you are planning a road trip to a national park, flying across the pond to sightsee in Europe, hiking in Hawaii, or taking an African safari this summer, possible health hazards abound when traveling.
Community Memorial Health System recommends taking precautions to stay as healthy as possible so you can enjoy your trip!
Airplanes and airports have plenty of germs. In your carry-on bag, pack some waterless, alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use before eating or drinking and after using the bathrooms on the plane and at the airport. Also, wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible!
Avoid jet lag by getting plenty of rest before the trip and adjusting sleep schedules before you leave. On the plane, walk around to keep your blood flowing, stretch, and drink lots of water. To stay mentally sharp, avoid overconsumption of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
VISITING FOREIGN COUNTRIES
Make sure all those traveling in the family are up-to-date on routine vaccinations and ask your doctor and your children’s doctor about any additional vaccines needed for a specific country. On the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, you can search by country to see what vaccines are needed. Remember that some vaccines require more than one dose and are given in a series over a period of days or weeks. Additionally, some vaccines take time to become effective in the body, so make sure to plan ahead.
Diarrhea is common when traveling abroad. Use only bottled water for drinking, mixing baby food, and teeth brushing, and make sure to order beverages without ice. It may also be best to avoid eating foods from random street vendors. If you get diarrhea, drink lots of clean water and other fluids to replace lost body fluids. Bloody diarrhea or an associated fever requires prompt evaluation by a physician.
MOSQUITOS, BITES & THE ZIKA VIRUS
Bugs, mosquitos and ticks can spread many diseases, including the Zika virus. Many of these diseases lack a vaccine, so the CDC says the best way to reduce your risk is by doing your best to prevent bug bites. To protect against ticks and mosquitos, wear protective clothing, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and use insect repellent with 20 percent or more DEET. If you’re using sunscreen simultaneously, apply the sunscreen first and the insect repellent second. Check the CDC’s website for additional information about Zika.
Some countries also pose a risk of malaria. If you are traveling to one of these places, you may be required to start medications two weeks prior to departure. Consult your physician regarding your travel plans and the necessary precautions well in advance to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.
GETTING MEDICAL CARE WHILE ON VACATION
What happens if you’re on vacation in a foreign country and you break an ankle? It’s smart to plan ahead and carry the location and contact information for the United States Embassy or Consulate, and a hospital in the city you are traveling to.
Do what you can to avoid breaking that ankle to begin with by keeping in mind that many countries have rough, uneven, or unpaved roads and sidewalks, as well as cobblestone streets. Wear comfortable, stable walking shoes and avoid high-heels, boots, and sandals whenever possible.
WHAT TO PACK
- An antibacterial ointment like Neosporin
- Over-the-counter pain medicine like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and medications for motion sickness if you are taking a cruise or boating excursion
- Cough drops and decongestant
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15
- Prescription medications. If flying, make sure to pack these in your carry-on so you have them even if your luggage is lost or delayed.
- Insect repellent with DEET if you are traveling to a tropical location or a place where diseases like malaria are present.
- Phone numbers for your primary care physician, your children’s physician(s), and the United States Embassy or Consulate in any foreign county you visit.