Preparing for Summer Trips: Staying Safe and Healthy No Matter Where You Travel
- If you are preparing for a summer trip, don’t overlook the task of staying healthy while you're away from home.
- It is important that the whole family gets the appropriate vaccinations. Everyone’s routine vaccinations should be up-to-date and every member of the family who is eligible should receive the H1N1 vaccination, especially if traveling overseas.
- It is important that you visit a travel medicine specialist or a doctor familiar with travel medicine to answer your questions and make specific recommendations for you.
- You should pack a health and safety kit for emergencies that may occur.
- Travelers should learn about the health risks associated with the country or region that they will be visiting. Some countries may have risks for certain diseases or natural disasters and it is important to know what precautions to take.
If you are preparing for a summer trip, you are probably consumed with things like getting passports, shopping for new clothes and finding a dog-sitter. But as you hurry to finish your last-minute errands, don’t overlook the task of staying healthy while you're away from home.
Here are some guidelines that can help:
“It is important that the whole family gets the appropriate vaccinations,” says Vera Howland, M.D., an internal medicine physician and medical director of the Crozer International Travel Medicine Center. “Everyone’s routine vaccinations should be up-to-date and every member of the family who is eligible should receive the H1N1 vaccination, especially if traveling overseas.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, travelers should visit a travel medicine physician four to six weeks before their trip because most vaccines take time to become effective in your body and some vaccines must be given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks.
For a list of vaccinations that may be required for the country or region that you are visiting, visit www.cdc.gov.
Review Your Health Insurance Plan
Because travelers are responsible for hospital and other medical expenses incurred during their trip, it is important to find out if your insurance can cover it. Think about purchasing additional health insurance for your trip if your health insurance does not cover you while you are traveling. To find a list of possible travel health and medical insurance companies, visit the travel section of the U.S. Department of State’s website at www.travel.state.gov.
Pack a Travel Health Kit
“Although you may not be thinking about getting sick or injured on your trip, you should always be prepared,” says Jackeline Iacovella, M.D., a specialist in Infectious Disease and Travel Medicine, and chief of the Section of Infectious Disease at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. “Essential medications should be taken on the plane in a carry-on bag rather than packed in your checked luggage to avoid loss. For some medicines or syringes, you may need a doctor’s note. You should also carry a note and or bracelet/tag with your medical history including your allergies. Travelers should always bring a first aid kit that includes basic things such as antacids, anti-gas pills, anti-diarrheal medicine, antimicrobial ointment, band aids, moisturizing cream, throat lozenges, small alcohol wipes, a mild laxative, and if approved by your doctor, include a decongestant, antihistamine and acetaminophen.”
Here is a list of other things to include:
- Insect repellant containing DEET (30 percent-50 percent) or picaridin (up to 15 percent)
- Sunscreen (preferably SPF 15 or greater)
- Antibacterial hand wipes
- Lubricating eye drops
- Safety items—travelers should buy a heavy-duty, waterproof, un-crushable sandwich box and include the following safety items in the box: a small Swiss army knife (should be placed in checked luggage if flying), a foil emergency blanket, iodine tablets (to purify water), rolled gauze, surgical tape, duct tape (roll a few yards onto a pencil stub), safety pins, a whistle, a tiny compass, a foil package of soup broth, moleskin (blister prevention), foil-wrapped key bags (to make a re-hydration solution), matches, a small flashlight, Ziploc bags, cotton-tipped applicators, and a thermometer.
Learn About Your Destination
Travelers should learn about the health risks associated with the country or region that they will be visiting. Some countries may have risks for certain diseases or natural disasters and it is important to know what precautions to take. Also, you should know if the country has any safety and security risks that may put you in danger. Research the country’s laws and customs so that you can follow them respectfully.
Visit a Doctor
It is important that you visit a travel medicine specialist or a doctor familiar with travel medicine to answer your questions and make specific recommendations for you. A travel medicine specialist can:
- Help you prevent or treat travel-related conditions such as infectious diseases, traveler’s diarrhea, jet lag, motion sickness and high altitude sickness.
- Recommend items that should be brought with you in a travel kit.
- Help you to get in contact with a physician in your destination country.
- Give information for traveler’s health insurance.
- Inform you about the current political and cultural climate of the country in which you will be staying so that you can be as safe as possible.
- When you visit your doctor, you should bring a list of your current medications, any allergies that you may have, your previous immunizations and your medical history. You should also have your complete travel itinerary including the countries and regions you’ll be visiting, the duration of the trip, any planned activities, and your place of residence (a modern hotel/resort, tent/campground, rural home, etc.).
For more information or to set up an appointment with a travel medicine specialist, call Delaware County Memorial Hospital’s Travelers’ Health Service at (610) 622-8900 or the Crozer International Travel Medicine Center at (610) 619-8500.