Saturday, May 30, 2015

Travel Well

If you are planning a trip, to the beach, the mountains, or across the globe, it is important to pay attention to your health through the process. Whether a vacation with family or the trip of a lifetime, having it impacted by health issues can sour a potentially sweet time. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Start Well

Get a check up. Many people will have their car checked before a long trip, looking at the tires, battery, oil and the like, but rarely do the same for themselves. Do you have any nagging complaints that have been going on just below the surface? Make sure that you are in the best of health before the trip. See your physician, if necessary, with enough lead time to take care of any issues. See your dentist if there are any concerns, or if it's been a long time since your last check. If you will be doing a lot of walking, or going to a high elevation, or plan to learn how to SCUBA dive, work with your physician to maximize your prospect of having a great time.

Review your medications, if any, and be sure to have enough on hand. It would be prudent to take double your anticipated supply, just to plan for any contingencies. You should keep your needed supply in your carry-on, and pack the extras in checked luggage, just to be safe. Medications should be labeled with not only the brand name, but also the chemical or generic name, even if the medication is not available generically in this country. If you run out, or need to see a physician in a foreign land, the brand name may not be familiar, but the generic, chemical, name will help the doctor understand what you are taking. Ask your physician for a list of your medications and doses, with prescriptions if possible, and also have a clear list of any medications or substances to which you are allergic, and carry it with you along with your travel documents.

Check for regional health concerns. The CDC website ( can tell you what may be present where you are going. If you are traveling to a place which requires vaccinations, be sure to contact your physician with enough time to acquire and administer the shots. Most travel vaccines are not a part of daily practice, and would need to be ordered special for you. Calling at the last minute that you need a yellow fever shot may not have the desired result. And some medications, such as for malaria, are started before you leave, so, again, leave adequate time for the process.

Are you insured? Review your health insurance policy and verify that you will have coverage for any medical matters on your trip, should you need it. If leaving the country, consider the purchase of medical insurance for travel, along with other travel insurance that you might obtain. This will be influenced by your health and where you are going, of course, and should be considered.

Bring stuff

Check meds and such. As noted above, make sure you have any prescription medication in sufficient quantities to allow for a delay in your return home, with labels and directions. Over the counter medications that you may take on occasion at home, for indigestion, aches and pains, cough and cold, or such may also be needed. There are often travel sizes of these medications at the store; although such packaging is a bit more expensive, it is convenient and well labeled. Although commonly supplied at many venues, pocket bottles of hand sanitizer or packaged wipes can come in handy while traveling. You may also need appropriate sunscreen, sleep aids, or even hemorrhoid medication, if such are your occasions. Depending on your destination, a hat, sunglasses, bug repellent, safety equipment, wet weather dress, or other location specific items may be needed. It's often a good idea to pack a small pair of scissors, tweezers, pocket knife and nail clipper, which, of course, should be in your checked baggage.

Do stuff

Schedule yourself. If your trip involves a significant time zone change, and you are on medication timed through the day or have problems with sleep, you may consider starting the transition to the new time zone before you leave. Try to move your medications no more than a few hours a day, and shift your wake – sleep cycle as well, so that when you arrive at your destination you will be less likely to lose a day or more acclimating. If you have any questions or doubts, check with your doctor about the best way to time shift into the vacation, and then back home again.

Stay well hydrated, particularly if you are flying or going to a warm climate or high elevation. Dehydration can be sneaky, and lead to all kinds of problems, easily prevented by drinking a bit more water. That water should be bottled if you are in a place where there are any doubts about the native water supply, and lay off the alcohol, which itself is dehydrating.

Be active. Walk, swim, bike, hike, and burn off those vacation calories. There is always that special dessert, the regional pastry, the sweet treat to tempt you. All things being equal, you can have a taste, a portion, of the treat, but be sure to remain active to burn off those calories. Even on cruises, where you may be tempted with a dozen meals a day, walking the decks can prevent a vacation bloat.

Take time to rest. We all know those “on the bus, off the bus, walk around and back on the bus” tours, and they can be exhausting. Just got back from the all day excursion and there's a midnight bonfire and dance-a-thon until dawn? Got up early this morning to climb the path and see a great sunrise, and now, at dinner time, you're beat? Know when to stop, when to say you've had enough, when to go to bed. Wiping yourself out can only lead to your missing the rest of the trip, and taking more time to recover at home.

Don't be afraid to ask. If you're in a restaurant and you don't understand a menu item, ask for an explanation. If it is something you can't, or don't, eat, ask for a change. In general, the better the restaurant, the more likely they will be willing to accommodate a special request. Be careful of regional foods which your digestive tract may not know. The best time to taste a new and exciting new food may not be when you don't have a ready support system available in case of a reaction. There are times that a little taste, rather than a chomp, may be the prudent thing to do.

Stuff when you get home

Reschedule. Just as you may have had to shift times going, so do you have to do the same, in reverse, when coming home. It may be easier, depending on the direction of travel, and you may be able to relax a bit more at home than you could arriving at your vacation destination, but going to work the day after you get back may not be a good idea.

Wash and rinse. Wash everything you took with you, even if you did not wear it. Wash out your suitcases and watch out for little critters that may have hitched a ride. Bedbugs have entered homes through luggage, luggage that may have become contaminated in the cargo hold of a plane or ship. So even if you think you're okay, some precautions never hurt.

Finish your medicines. If you are on a course of medication to prevent disease, such as malaria, that should continue for a time after you return home, finish the meds. Don't assume that just because you are home all is fine to stop it. If you have any concerns about your health from the trip, call your physician and discuss your issues. You may need to be seen to insure that all is well.

Relax. You had a great time, relax a bit while you let it all soak in. Look at your pictures, check out those souvenirs, wait for the packages of purchases to arrive, and just enjoy. Makes some notes of what you did right, and what you may have done wrong, so that next year's trip is even better!


  1. Excellent presentation. Regarding the possibility of bedbugs, I wonder whether it is wise to keep your clothes in your suitcases instead of putting them away in drawers in the room of your hotel. This may not be practical, though, if you are going for an extended time, e.g., 2 or more weeks.

  2. It's not a bad idea, at all. But remember that the critters can be on the floor, and can still get into your luggage. Best advice is to check out the room for signs of bedbugs when you first check in; pull back the bedding, look around and look for the dark lines of old blood. There are websites that have full guidelines for this. If you find them, leave!