Leaving Town? Don’t Leave Your Health Behind!

Planning to hit the road this 4th of July weekend? Counting down the days until your summer vacation with the kids?

You’re not alone: according to a recent survey conducted by Orbitz.com, eighty-eight percent (88%) of Americans plan to travel this summer, an eleven percent (11%) increase over 2013.

Whether it’s for two days or two weeks, getting away offers a chance to leave behind the stressors and familiarity of your daily routine in exchange for the fun and exotic. But one thing you should never leave at home is your health. Whether you’re getting behind the wheel, leaving on a jet plane or sailing the high seas, be sure to include good health as part of your plans. Doing so will help to ensure your vacation is as enjoyable as it should be.

Schedule a “to-do” list. Life can be hectic (which is why we need vacation!) so it can be easy to procrastinate when it comes to planning a vacation. But making last minute reservations and packing decisions can be stressful and exhausting, both of which are hard on your immune system. Plan well ahead and save your energy and adrenalin for your actual vacation.

Shape up before you ship out. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle and are planning an active vacation such as biking or hiking, make sure you’re up to the task by starting a fitness program well in advance. For example, start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator then gradually increase your activity by walking half an hour a day during your lunch period, then increase your time or speed, and so on. Don’t let your vacation be ruined by a torn muscle or other injury resulting from lack of conditioning. (Note: if you have a pre-existing health condition, check with your health care provider before you begin any exercise program.)

Pack with care. If you’ll be outdoors a lot, make a first aid kit with items such as pain relievers (in both adult and child strengths), sunscreen, insect repellent, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial ointments, medicine for motion sickness, anti-diarrheal medicines, band-aids and moleskin. Also, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in just one year more than 50,000 luggage-related injuries occurred in the United States, so pack as lightly as you can and/or invest in light-weight luggage. (See a list of tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons on how to safely lift and carry luggage.)

Bring along your medications. If you or any of your family members are on medications, be sure to pack enough to last through your vacation plus 1-2 extra days in case of delays, theft or loss. Place your medications (in their original containers) in a waterproof or Ziploc bag and keep them with you in your purse or carry-on. Keep a separate list of your medications including generic names, dosages, prescription numbers and pharmacy names in a separate place (such as your checked baggage). Don’t forget to bring a spare pair of glasses or contact lenses, which can be hard to replace if you’re away from home. If you have a pre-existing condition you may also want to ask your physician for a letter describing your condition.

Move around while you’re getting around. Sitting for hours without moving can hamper blood circulation and put you at risk for potentially lethal blood clots in your legs known as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. You have a higher risk of DVT if you:

  • are age 60 or older
  • are obese
  • are pregnant
  • have a history of heart disease
  • have recently had surgery in a lower extremity
  • have varicose veins, or
  • have a history of DVT

If travelling by car, take frequent pit stops, get out of the car and walk around, and stretch your calf muscles. If travelling by bus or plane, occasionally walk up and down the aisle if possible. If you must remain seated, wiggling your toes, flexing and extending your calf muscles, and making circles with your feet can all help to improve circulation in your lower legs. Dehydration can also contribute to DVT so drink plenty of and avoid alcohol, which can actually cause dehydration.

Get the proper vaccinations and medications. If you’re planning an exotic vacation abroad or travelling to a developing nation, you may be required to have receive certain vaccines and medicines. (For a country-by-country guide to recommended vaccines and medicines, visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.) Schedule an appointment with your health care provider four to six weeks in advance to ensure you’re properly immunized. If you’re headed for an area with high rates of malaria, it’s also advisable to have enough anti-malarial medicine to last throughout your trip and for several weeks after your return.

Check your health insurance. Health insurance plans vary on how much and when they’ll cover medical care you receive away from home, so know your plan’s provisions before you go. For example, original Medicare generally doesn’t cover care you receive outside the United States, whereas many commercial Medicare Advantage Plans do.

Taking these health-related precautions before you leave home can help to ensure your vacation is fun and relaxing.