First of all be prepared before you travel:
- Educate yourself about your destination; what will the weather be like? How are the sanitary conditions? Are there any safety or security issues? Will you need an electrical plug adapter?
- Visit your doctor before you leave if you have any health concerns or chronic medical conditions. Make this visit at least 5 to 6 weeks ahead of time as you might need immunizations.
- Make sure you have an adequate supply of your medications and pack them in a carry on rather than in luggage.
- Bring along a list of all your current medications, allergies, and blood type.
Important issues while traveling include:
- Prevent blood clots associated with prolonged sitting, by exercising your calf muscles while seated and/or get up and walk around every couple of hours.
- Minimize jet lag by staying well hydrated, avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Get plenty of rest prior to departing and, upon arrival to your destination, adjust to the local schedule as fast as possible and expose yourself to bright lights at the same time of day as before departure.
- Prevent traveler’s diarrhea by washing hands frequently, avoiding precooked food like buffets, street vendor food and any water that is not bottled from a reputable source. Your doctor may want to prescribe antibiotics to take with you in case you come down with diarrhea.
- Motion sickness can be lessened by focusing on the horizon and not reading. Sit in the back of the vehicle and don’t ride facing the rear.
- Avoid sunburn by bringing enough of an appropriate sunscreen and limiting time in sun, especially the first few days.
Do not travel if:
- You have recently had heart attack or stroke.
- You have had recent surgery.
- You have significant respiratory disease such as asthma or emphysema.
- You have had recent injury to any vital organs.
- You are ill with a bad cough, vomiting, diarrhea or a fever of 100 degrees or above.
Take along a travel health kit to include those things you commonly use at home for symptoms of illness or injury.
Do your best to deal with often encountered misfortunes such as missed flights, lost luggage, bad weather, disappointing accommodations, etc. You have no control over most of these things and allowing yourself to get stressed out can only make you feel more miserable. Look beyond these situations and imagine the joy that you will experience during your trip. Bon Voyage!
Terry Hollenbeck, M.D., is an urgent-care physician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz in Scotts Valley. Readers can view his previous columns on his website, valleydoctor.wordpress.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information in this column is not intended to replace advice from your own health care professional. For any medical concern, consult your own doctor.