Whether you’re planning a cross-county road trip, flying abroad, or preparing for a trip to grandmother’s house, make sure you include your health in your travel check-off list. While you may not be able to predict illness or injury, you can definitely take several precautionary measures to help protect and ensure your health and that of your loved ones.
Jose Dryjanski, MD, a travel medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills (Calif.) Medical Center, offers some tips to help you prepare for that much-awaited summer getaway:
Consult your travel clinic or primary care provider 4 to 6 weeks before you leave: If you have a chronic health condition or have specific health issues that might put you at higher risk for illness, a travel medicine specialist or your primary care provider can advise you about your specific itinerary and health needs.
Ensure that your vaccines are up to date: If traveling abroad, find out if there are any travel notices, vaccine requirements and/or need for malaria prevention. Do this at least four to six weeks before your trip to allow for full protection. Visit the CDC Travel Health site at cdc.gov/travel for the most update information.
Refill your prescription medications before you leave: If you’re traveling by air, always carry important medicines in your carry-on bag, not your checked baggage, in case your luggage gets lost. Bring a list of all your prescription medicines in case you misplace them or need to receive medical attention.
If traveling with children, plan ahead and make sure you’re prepared to provide for their health care needs. Be aware that children face many of the same health risks adults do; however, the consequences can be more serious. Earaches, motion sickness, diarrhea, dehydration and food poisoning are among the most common travel related childhood ailments.
Protect yourself against mosquitoes, ticks and other insects that can transmit disease. Opt for an Environmental Protection Agency-regulated repellant — this means it has been approved for both efficacy and safety — and apply as directed. Additionally, wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, boots and hats to minimize skin exposure.
Make sun and heat safety a priority. The heat can put everyone at risk of heat-related illnesses, but it can be especially dangerous for older travelers, infants and young children, and those who have a chronic illness. Keep an eye on those most susceptible for heat-related complications and react on the first signs of illness. Stay hydrated, dress for the weather, limit your exposure to the sun during 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of at least 30, reapplying every two hours.
Find out if your health care provider offers medical coverage while you’re abroad. If you or a loved one becomes ill or injured while on travel, contact your home provider as soon as possible.