Darla Carter of The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal notes that illnesses can certainly ruin a vacation. For a truly grand time, she suggests packing some travel essentials to ensure a fun, illness-free getaway.
Few things can ruin a vacation like getting too sick to enjoy your time off. Here are some steps you can take to stay well, or at least to be better prepared in case you or your travel mates start feeling puny.
BE INFORMED: Research your destination. Learn about any health threats as well as other relevant issues, such as climate and vaccination requirements.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a useful site at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel.
FIRST AID: Pack your own first-aid kit, as Dr. Katherine Jett does.
“It seems like my kids never get sick when we’re home,” said Jett, a physician with Baptist Medical Associates in Campbellsburg, Ky. “They always get sick when we’re on vacation.”
Jett stocks the kit with remedies for congestion, fever, upset stomach, rashes and itching. She also brings antihistamines, bandages and antibiotic ointment.
“Sickness can happen anywhere,” she said. “You just have to be prepared.”
INSECT REPELLENT: If you’re going to a place where you might be bitten by mosquitoes or other pests, be sure to pack some bug repellent, and remember to wear proper clothing. For example, if you’re going to be in a wooded area, where there might be ticks, you might want to wear pants and long sleeves.
SUNSCREEN: Don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun as well by bringing along sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 for outdoor excursions.
Kathleen Downey, an associate professor in the department of family and community medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, suggested packing non-aerosol suntan lotion and bug repellent. “When you travel to resorts, sunscreen and bug spray are extraordinarily expensive in gift shops,” she said. So this step “may save them oodles of money.”
BRING YOUR MEDS: Carry vital medication, such as your blood pressure medicine, with you. “Especially for diabetics or if someone has seizures, they should have everything in their carry-on (bag), where it can be easily accessed,” Jett said.
Talk with your physician or pharmacist about any special handling instructions, Downey said. For example, a medication might need to be kept at a certain temperature. Also, ask about any special medications you might need, such as patches for sea sickness or a sedative if flying makes you anxious.
For air travelers, the Transportation Security Administration has a website and app with information about what’s allowed and what’s not. Learn more at http://www.tsa.gov.
DON’T TAKE CHANCES: “If you have asthma, don’t leave your medications at home thinking, ‘I haven’t needed my inhaler in a while’” said Dr. Joseph Turbyville of Family Allergy and Asthma in Louisville. If you have a nebulizer, bring it with you, too.
ALLERGY ALERT: Turbyville notes, “Remember that geographic locations will vary with regard to pollen. … If you know what your allergic triggers are, consider checking the pollen count in your destination and plan accordingly.”
MEDICAL CARE: Know what medical resources are available in the location you’re visiting. People with chronic conditions who plan to be away from home for a substantial period of time — spending months in Florida, for example — should consider establishing a relationship with a health-care provider in the area where they’re vacationing, Downey said.
HAND WASHING: Don’t underestimate the value of washing your hands. Dirty hands can lead to ingesting germs that can make you sick. Keep hand sanitizer handy for those times you aren’t near a convenient source of water.
AVOID HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS: Don’t allow yourself to get overheated. Be sure to take water breaks and seek shade when possible. Learn the signs of heat-related illness.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS: “You have to have a realistic pace for your vacation,” Jett said.
EAR PAIN: Some people experience ear pain while flying. Jett suggests chewing gum during flights, which “can help your body equalize the pressure better.”
ACHY FEET: Make sure that you wear shoes that will accommodate slight swelling in your feet, Downey said, and take some adhesive bandages in case you get blisters.
SAFETY EQUIPMENT: Get access to safety equipment, such as bike helmets, if you plan to participate in activities that might lead to injury, or if you’re sending kids off to places where they could get hurt.
WATER SAFETY: Water-related tragedies can occur in natural settings, such as lakes, or at public or private pools. Make sure children are properly supervised in and near water and that everyone is wearing proper gear, such as life jackets. “Make sure no one is ever swimming alone,” Jett said. Avoid diving into shallow water.
POOL HYGIENE: Swallowing pool water can make you sick; so can coming in contact with contaminated water or breathing in mist or aerosols, according to the CDC. Make sure everyone showers before swimming and take kids on bathroom breaks. For more prevention tips, go to http://1.usa.gov/YZ93E2.
INSURANCE: Check with your insurance company to see whether your insurance card will be accepted in the vacation town, Downey said.
FOOD SAFETY: Follow food-safety rules, such as avoiding perishable food that’s been left out at room temperature for too long or that hasn’t been cleaned or prepared properly. If you’re unsure about a food’s safety, “I would just not eat it,” Jett said. Also, if you’re unsure whether a water supply is clean, you should always drink bottled water, she said. Learn more at http://www.foodsafety.gov.
FOOD ALLERGIES: Be cautious about eating out if you have a food allergy. “Fresh seafood is great, but if you even think you might be allergic to fish or shellfish, resist the temptation to partake on vacation,” Turbyville said. Also, don’t be a daredevil. “Don’t think you can take a Benadryl and eat your lobster tail, because it could be life-threatening. If you know you have a food allergy, make sure you pack your epinephrine,” Turbyville said.
SPEAK UP: Let airlines know about any issues that you might have related to health, Downey suggested. That includes letting them know you have a child with a mental or physical disability who might need special assistance or have issues that might make travel challenging for him, her or other people. If you have concerns about the security screening process at airports, you can read up on it at http://www.tsa.gov or call (855) 787-2227.
BLOOD CLOTS: If you’re going to be cooped up for several hours trying to reach your destination, take steps to prevent the development of blood clots, suggests the National Institutes of Health. For example, on long car rides, stop every couple of hours to walk around. On planes, walk up and down the aisle if possible or exercise your legs at your seat.
Families looking for a great getaway this summer can check out Geoholiday’s website for a list of world-class resort destinations,