With the summer travel season taking off, here are some tips to ensure a safe and satisfying vacation for you and your family.
Plan ahead. Make an appointment to see your primary care physician at least four to six weeks before your trip to allow adequate time for immunizations and other medications that may be necessary for certain destinations.
The Hepatitis A vaccine, for example, is recommended for most people traveling to developing countries to prevent this type of hepatitis typically found in returning travelers. Malaria pills also may be needed for some third-world countries. The yellow-fever vaccine is now required for some countries in South America and Africa.
At a minimum, make sure your routine shots and boosters – and your children’s – are up to date to prevent diseases, including polio, diphtheria, whooping cough and rubella, which still are common in developing countries
Visit websites before visiting your destinations. The internet can provide a wealth of travel health information, as long as the websites contain current information from reliable sources. Some helpful sites are:
www.cdc.gov/travel — travel information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
www.who.int/ith/en — travel advisories, required immunizations and disease outbreaks from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Another CDC website, www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp, provides inspection records for most major cruise ships to help potential passengers make informed decisions about the safety of various cruise liners.
If traveling outside our country, know where you can get quality medical care in the region you will be visiting. The U.S. Department of State’s website, www.usembassy.gov, lists U.S. embassies worldwide, as well as medical facilities in those areas.
Pack a travel health kit. Many people spend hours packing clothes, books and electronic devices for their trips, but devote little or no time to ensuring their health while away. Pack a kit containing essential first-aid items, as well as your prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Take along a list of your medications, as well as key phone numbers for your doctor, pharmacy and health plan.
Check your health coverage. Find out if your health insurance covers you while visiting your destination. If not, consider travel health insurance or a supplement to your current policy.
Take in-flight precautions. Remember to get up and walk around while on long plane rides to reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis – blood clots in the legs. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or non-alcoholic, caffeine-free beverages. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of germs that cause colds and flu.
Happy and healthy trails to you!
Dr. Peter Galier is with UCLA Internal Medicine Consultants of Santa Monica and a former chief of staff at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital. Information: 310.458.2381.