It is that time of year where many patients will be traveling for summer vacation! You may get approached with questions about safely packing medications, travel vaccines, and how to stay healthy while traveling. Each patient will have different needs, however here are some helpful general tips to keep patients healthy while traveling.
Before you leave:
- Get your vaccines well in advance. If you know you are traveling in the next 6 months, do not wait until the last month. Certain vaccines need to be started weeks before your departure. Other vaccines are a series and you will need multiple doses. See your health care provider at least 6 weeks before your trip. Depending on where you live, you can find a local pharmacy that offers a travel vaccine program or visit your county health department. These programs will be able to give you comprehensive and specific guidelines on what vaccines or premedication you need based on your area of travel. They can also see if you are up to date on other vaccines.
- Think about your specific health needs. Do you tend to get motion sickness, stomach upset, or other symptoms when flying? Have you had illness or injury while traveling previously? Create a travel kit1 and include staples such as an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, antidiarrheal, antihistamine, 30% DEET, first aid kit, sunscreen and any other medications you might need.
- Keep your travel documents organized. Have your vaccine list, passport, and travel documents organized and available in your carry on. Certain countries need to see proof of vaccine before entering into the area. For example, the yellow fever vaccine has special paperwork that needs to be taken on your trip before entering the country.
- Be cautious about what you drink. You may need to avoid tap water and ice cubes. Choose bottled water or heated beverages such as coffee or tea.
- Be careful what you eat. Stay away from street vendors and avoid raw fruits and vegetables unless you have to peel them before eating.
- Wear sunscreen that has UVA and UVB protection. SPF 15 or higher is recommended.2 Apply liberally 20 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and each time after you come out of the water.
- Wash your hands. It seems like an obvious recommendation, however keep in mind that there is a higher risk of illness in foreign countries. Wash your hands before you eat, after you sneeze or cough and after using the bathroom. If soap is not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
After you return:
- Finish any remaining medication. For example, if you took an antimalarial, don’t forget to continue to take it as prescribed after you return from your trip.
- See a doctor if you aren’t feeling well. Any abnormal symptoms should be addressed immediately.
Helping your patients feel comfortable and safe while traveling will decrease stress of travel and help them stay healthy!
- Pack smart. CDC. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart.
- Sun Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety.htm.