You’re all ready for you trip – you’ve got your tickets in hand, your bags packed, mail delivery has been stopped, and the neighbor is watching the cat. But you may have overlooked one of the key ingredients for a great vacation – making sure you and your family have a healthy trip.
Although you can’t anticipate every contingency, there are steps you can take to ensure a healthy vacation. Your travel agent can help you determine the climate at your destination and what you’ll need to bring along on your trip. You’ve packed shorts and tee-shirts appropriate for warm weather at the beach, desert, or campsite, but did you remember sunscreen, insect repellent, and bottled water?
Planning ahead for a healthy trip involves taking along first-aid supplies that might be needed at your destination or along the way. It also means remembering to pack any prescription or over-the-counter medications you or your family members take on a regular basis. Also be sure to ask your travel agent about required vaccinations and any health department advisories that may exist for the countries you are visiting. For travellers with special needs, your travel agent can help you book the vacation that’s right for you and provide such personalized services as having a wheelchair waiting at your destination.
See your Doctor
Before leaving for vacation, you should visit your family physician to discuss any troubling symptoms that might become a problem during your journey. Many health concerns can be addressed prior to your trip and worries about illness or discomfort can often be alleviated by working with your doctor and your travel agent. The following information offers helpful hints on travel health and how to cope with some health concerns that may be particularly troublesome during any trip away from home, such as motion sickness, overactive bladder, allergies, joint and muscle aches or arthritis.
Jet lag is the exhausted, run-down, disoriented feeling you may experience after a long airline flight. It combines with the stress of new surroundings to cause mental and physical exhaustion. Jet lag is normal and a natural reaction to the unusual situations and stimuli you will encounter as you pass through several time zones.
Here’s a short list of jet lag tips that can work in concert to alleviate many of the symptoms:
- Do stretching exercises in your seat to avoid cramped muscles
- Walk around the cabin during your flight
- Yawn or chew gum to avoid pressure build-up in the ears
- Avoid alcohol and coffee before and during your flight
- Carry drinking water with you and drink an 8 ounce glass each hour
- Wear comfortable clothes, especially shoes
- Be well rested before you leave
- Make sure your pre-flight diet contains plenty of starch, carbohydrates and greens
- Set your watch to the time of your destination before you board
- Arrange in-flight meals to reflect the time-of-day at your destination
- Eliminate stress and anxiety as much as possible form your journey
Common Travel Health Problems
People who experience motion sickness are familiar with the dizziness, nausea, queasiness, and upset stomach that may accompany car, boat and plane travel. Motion sickness usually results when the brain gets conflicting information about movement. When travelling by car, try to sit in the front seat and avoid reading. When travelling by boat, sit as close to the middle of the vessel as possible and look straight ahead at the horizon or at another fixed point that will not move. Today’s high-tech cruise ships are built for comfort, with stabilizers for smooth sailing, and most passengers experience little or no motion sickness. When flying, try to sit near the wing of the plane or on the side to which you are accustomed to when in a car. Ear plugs may also help. There are some over-the-counter and prescription medications available to help prevent motion sickness. Remember to use caution when taking them, as many cause drowsiness which can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle, boat or plane.
People with overactive bladders may experience symptoms of frequency (urinating more than eight times per day), urgency (an overwhelming urge to urinate) or incontinence (a sudden, uncontrolled release of urine). Overactive bladder can be a difficult problem to cope with during trips, requiring many restroom visits, however, there is help available. Ask your doctor about prescription medications that can help decrease the urge to urinate as often, thus making your travel easier. For more information visit www.overactivebladder.com
People with digestive disorders such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome may also require frequent bathroom visits during long trips. Over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications are helpful and there are prescription medications available for people who may experience more severe symptoms. Avoiding stress, caffeine, and certain types of high-fat foods can help keep these conditions under control. Consult your travel agent on the availability of special airline meals to suit your dietary needs. On international journeys, your travel agent can recommend high-quality hotels and tours with meals included at pre-selected restaurants.
People who suffer from allergies to molds, mites, dust, pollen, animal fur, insects, foods, and other substances should take the same precautions on vacation as they do at home. Bring any prescription or over-the-counter anti-allergy medications used on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to bring an antihistamine in case of accidental exposure to a substance that triggers an allergic reaction. It may also be helpful to pack your own pillowcase for use in hotels, especially if you have sensitive skin. Most hotels offer non-smoking rooms and some hotels even offer non-allergic pillows. Ask your travel agent for availability.
JOINT, MUSCLE ACHES AND ARTHRITIS
The inflammation of the joints that occurs with arthritis may be especially troubling during long trips that restrict movement. Taking frequent breaks to walk around and relieve stiff joints and muscles can make car, plane and cruise trips more enjoyable. Remember to pack aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, or any prescription medications you normally use for arthritis. Your travel agent can arrange special assistance at the airport and recommend hotels, tours, and cruises that cater to persons with limited mobility.
Consult a Professional
Don’t let travel health concerns keep you at home. Some advance planning will assure that you have a great vacation. Talk with your doctor about any health issues you may be prone to such as motion sickness, frequent urination, allergies, or back or joint pain. If you experience a medical problem during your travels, ask for assistance at your hotel or lodging facility, or consult a local emergency medical clinic or hospital for a doctor-finder service. Your travel agent can help you locate the hospital closest to your hotel.
Don’t Forget to Bring …
- More than enough prescription medication in case of loss, theft, breakage or spillage
- A note from your doctor with a medical diagnosis for a chronic condition as well as medications and dosages prescribed
- Medical ID bracelets or cards listing your chronic health conditions for emergency personnel
- Extra eyeglasses, lens prescriptions, contact lens solutions
- Extra hearing-aid batteries
- Pillowcase from home for allergy sufferers
- Sunscreen (at least SPF 15)
- Bottled water
- Insect repellent with diethyltoluamide (DEET)
- Ear plugs
It’s a good idea to keep a first-aid kit handy for emergencies that may arise during your trip. The kit should contain:
- Bandages, gauze and tape
- Antibiotic ointment
- Cold and flu tablets
- Throat lozenges
- Antidiarrheal medication
- Motion sickness medication
- Water purification tablets
Always pack medication in your carry-on bag. Never pack them in checked baggage or luggage that will be stored out of your reach, where they could spill or be exposed to harmful temperatures.