Millions of people will be travelling this spring for fun, business or both. No matter where you go, there are steps you can take to stay healthy and avoid illness or injury. It may surprise you to learn that up to 70% of travelers experience some health problem – ranging from minor symptoms to illnesses that require medical care. Getting travel health advice about vaccines, medications, and other measures before you travel is important.
So here are 5 tips to staying healthy and enjoying your trip:
1) Don’t wait to vaccinate.
Make an appointment with your health care provider or a travel medical clinic 4-6 weeks before your trip to get your vaccines or medications and other information about protecting yourself from illness while traveling. Many vaccines take time to become effective, and some vaccines must be given over a period of time.
2) Know what you need.
Vaccines are often recommended for international travel. This may include getting up-to-date with routine immunization schedules – such as the diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine – and recommended vaccines specific for your travel destinations – such as the yellow fever vaccination that can only be administered by authorized providers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is an excellent source of general and country-specific information on vaccines and travel medicines.
3) Be prepared when you pack.
Put together a travelers’ health kit that includes your prescribed medications, over-the-counter medication to prevent diarrhea, sunscreen, insect repellent, alcohol-based hand gels, first-aid items, and toilet items. Depending upon your destination, you might also need to include an oral antibiotic to self-treat moderate to severe diarrhea. To lessen the risk of diarrhea, choose safe food and bottled water.
4) Beat the jet lag.
Combat the headaches, tiredness, and insomnia associated with jet lag. Get plenty of rest, exercise and follow a healthy diet. To avoid dehydration, passengers are discouraged from drinking alcoholic beverages and caffeine. Instead, enjoy plenty of water to help counteract the effects of the dry atmosphere inside the plane and exercise your legs while sitting. Move around the plane when the seat belt sign is switched off, every hour or two. Adjust sleeping hours on the plane to match the destination time, and upon arrival, adapt to the local time and eat accordingly. Also, exposure to sunlight during the day or even melatonin can be helpful.
5) Take coverage.
Check your overseas medical insurance coverage and pay attention to security and health risks when you travel. Determine if your medical insurance policy applies overseas, and if it covers a medical evacuation. If it doesn’t, consider purchasing travel insurance. Obtain country-specific information, travel warnings and alerts through the U.S. State Department’s travel information website.
Be well, Stay well!
~ Pharmacist Andy