You’ve got your bags packed, and your plane ticket, a hotel room, and a car are all booked for your trip. You’re completely ready, right? Actually, you might have forgotten something.
Did you see your doctor before heading out on your vacation?
Whether traveling domestically or overseas, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommends seeing a physician at least four to six weeks prior to takeoff. There are so many factors that can affect the outcome of a trip, from the diseases common in your intended destination, the length of your trip, to even your planned activities and your own personal medical history (both past and present).
A general physical is a good idea, especially if you might be planning to participate in physical activity that you do not perform regularly. These factors also greatly depend on your age and any chronic health issues. And if you happen to get sick at the time of your intended trip, it is advisable to consult your doctor about your options — and if you are fit for travel. Seeing your doctor before a trip will also ensure that you prescriptions are up-to-date and filled. And if traveling by plane, it’s always advisable to keep medications and health-related items in your carry-on instead of your luggage. That way in case of a luggage mix-up, you are not separated from your medications for long. And if you have one, it’s always a good idea to keep a medical alert bracelet or necklace on you while you are away from home.
But your physical condition isn’t the only thing you should consider when going on vacation.
“So much depends on where you’re going,” says Sun Life’s Director of Nursing Marion Levett. “And it’s so important to do your research and be prepared.”
If traveling overseas, vaccines are a major part of planning your trip, Levett explains. “And each country is different.”
For an extensive list, visit the traveler’s health website: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list. There, you can choose any country in the world, and then pick which kind of traveling you are doing (whether it’s with children, on a cruise ship, or just visiting friends and family), as well as what kind of traveler you are (if you are pregnant, have immune-compromised health issue, or have a chronic disease). The site will give you all of the information you could want, from suggested and required vaccines and medicines, tips on how to stay healthy, a travel packing list, travel health notices, and ideas on what to do after your trip if you’ve contracted an illness.
There are also other day-to-day factors to consider, such as whether the water is safe to drink, Levett added, or even what latitude the location is in. If you have respiratory problems, traveling to locations at higher latitudes should be an issue to talk about with your doctor.
She also indicated that travel health insurance can be helpful, to be on the safe side. And putting together a basic first-aid kit is never a bad idea. Items Levett suggests should be in every traveler’s kit are:
• Spare pair of glasses/contact lenses
• Needles or syringes, insulin, or blood sugar testing supplies (for diabetics)
• Extra inhaler
• Anti-diarrhea medicine
• Motion sickness medicine
• Cough drops/suppression or expectorant
• Mild laxative
• Mild sedative or sleep aid
• Aspirin or other pain reliever
• Topical antibiotic cream
• Hydrocortisone cream
• Bug repellent/insect bite treatment
• Altitude sickness medicine
• Antifungal/antibacterial ointments
• Bandages (several sizes), gauze and tape
• Aloe gel (for sunburns)
• Moleskin or mole foam for blisters
• Oral rehydration salts
• Disposable gloves
• Cotton swabs/Q-tips
• Eye drops
• Elastic or compression bandage wraps for sprains
• Scissors/safety pins
• Digital thermometer
While these items can help with basic health concerns, every location has its unique landscape and wildlife that can adversely affect us if we are not prepared. “So plan ahead, and don’t wait until the last minute,” Levett advises.
To schedule your pre-travel checkup, visit www.sunlifefamilyhealth.org, or call (520) 568-2245.