Vacation health care
Travel health tips
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- Bring nonprescription medications that you might need with you.
- Check your health insurance carrier regarding your health care coverage (including coverage for emergency transport) while traveling out of the country.
- Consider traveler's insurance if you are going abroad.
- If you are leaving your children, leave a signed consent-to-treat form with your children's caretaker.
- If you are planning a long flight, minimize jet lag by scheduling your arrival at your destination as close to your usual bedtime as possible, according to the time zone to which you are flying.
- If you are taking medications, talk to your health care provider before leaving. Carry any medications with you -- not in your luggage.
- If you are traveling to another country, research the accessibility and quality of health care there.
- If you have an important event at your long-distance destination, plan to arrive 2 or 3 days in advance, if possible, so that you will be fresh for your appointment.
- Take immunization records, along with any other important medical records, especially when traveling to another country.
- Take a medical first aid kit.
- Take insurance ID cards.
- Take sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses.
- Take the name and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care provider.
- When traveling to an underdeveloped country, make sure that everyone in your traveling party is adequately immunized against any infectious disease you might encounter. Some countries require certificates of vaccination against diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, meningococcal meningitis, tetanus, and yellow fever. Check with your health care provider. The Centers for Disease Control maintains updated advisories and immunization requirements for travelers to all parts of the world.
ON THE ROAD
- Avoid mosquito bites, which can spread infections, by wearing proper clothing and using insect repellant.
- Cooked foods are usually safe, but raw foods and salads (lettuce, raw vegetables, fruit with peel, unpasteurized milk, milk products, undercooked seafood or meat) may lead to gastrointestinal problems. Eat in restaurants that have a reputation for safe cooking.
- Consider automobile safety and use seat belts when traveling.
- If you are visiting an area where diarrheal illnesses are common (Mexico, for example), speak with your health care provider about getting a prescription for antibiotics. Fill the prescription and take it with you in case you fall ill.
- If you come down with diarrhea, drink plenty of bottled liquids. Broths and carbonated beverages are good for maintaining your strength.
- Prevent infections with hand washing.
- Upon arrival, check the local emergency number. Not all communities use 911.
- When traveling long distances, expect your body to adjust to a new time zone at the rate of about 1 hour per day.
- When traveling to less economically developed countries, don't drink the water if you want to avoid the risk of diarrhea. Remember the ice may also be contaminated if there is concern about the water quality. Bottled water may be safe, as long as it is factory bottled. Traveler's diarrhea can also result from drinking beverages that contain ice. Bottled carbonated sodas, beer, and wine (without ice) are safe.
- When traveling with children, make sure that they know the name and telephone number of your hotel in case they get separated from you. Give them enough money to make a phone call, and make sure they know how to use the phones if you are in a foreign country.
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Chandy JC, Salata RA. Health Advice for Children Traveling Internationally. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap. 173.
Arguin P. Approach To The Patient Before And After Travel. In:Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap. 308.
Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder. In: Moore DP, Jefferson JW. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2004: chap. 120.
Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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