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Health Tips for Safe Travel

Last updated: June 16, 2023

Taking a few extra precautions and planning ahead can help you avoid a lot of the common issues you can encounter on a trip.

Ashley Crowe, Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner, ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah

When you’re planning a trip, it’s natural to focus on the fun parts — planning your itinerary, securing plane tickets, and reserving accommodations. But make sure to check off health and safety items on your to-do list as well.

Follow these guidelines to help ensure a healthy and stress-free getaway.

Plan for Meds

“One of the most important things to remember while planning to go on vacation — particularly if you’re going out of the country — is to make sure you have all the prescription drugs that you need,” says Ashley Crowe, a Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner at ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah.

Ensure you have any needed prescriptions refilled so you have enough while you’re away. Always carry them in their original containers, as customs can confiscate medications without labels.It’s also best to carry prescriptions in a carry-on bag rather than packing them in your checked luggage.

“You don’t want to be without your prescription medication, particularly if you’re going abroad, where it may be more difficult to refill those medications,” Crowe says.

Check in with a Provider

Before your vacation, you may need to schedule an appointment with your health care provider. This can help ensure you have any needed vaccinations or oral medications for the region where you’re vacationing, Crowe says.

Whether you’re traveling domestically or abroad, you should receive the COVID-19 vaccine or booster, she adds.The virus is still present and active. Travelers can check the State Department’s website for country-specific COVID-19 information before traveling.

Depending where you’re traveling, you may need to receive other vaccines or boosters. These can include Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), influenza, chickenpox, cholera, hepatitis A/B, rabies, typhoid, and yellow fever.

“It’s dependent on the country where you’ll be traveling and the areas you’ll be visiting,” Crowe says. “That’s why it’s important to let your health care provider know if you’re planning to travel abroad.”

Considerations for Kids

Children who are traveling should be up to date on all their routine vaccinations. Parents and caregivers also should watch children for any changes in their health while traveling, particularly if children are too young to talk about how they’re feeling, Crowe says.

“The most common health issue kids experience while traveling is diarrhea, and that can lead to dehydration,” she says. “Ensure your child gets plenty of fluids. If they seem dehydrated, develop a fever, or have bloody stools, you should seek local medical attention.”

Travelers, especially those vacationing with kids, should have a plan for where and how to seek medical attention should the need arise. Cruise ships have medical facilities aboard, and international resorts and hotels should have local contacts for medical providers nearby. Know the emergency number for the country in which you are traveling.

Other Health Concerns

It’s a good idea to travel with a health kit that includes items such as your prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, sanitizer and wipes, extra masks, bandages, and electrolyte drink powder, Crowe says.

Insect repellent is important to have on your trip as well. Mosquitos and other pests can carry diseases including West Nile virus, encephalitis, malaria, and the Zika virus. Sunscreen is also a must.

“People living in Wisconsin may forget that if they travel south, it’s easier to get sunburned faster as the sun’s rays become more intense,” Crowe says. “You should use sunscreen outdoors no matter where you’re traveling.”

Bringing sun-protective hats and clothing can help you avoid sunburn, as can wearing lightweight clothing with long sleeves and pants. If you do get sunburned, you can cool your skin with cold compresses, or try over-the-counter gels, moisturizers or lotions, Crowe says.

“Getting a bad sunburn while traveling can ruin an otherwise-beautiful vacation,” she says.

Finally, check your health insurance before traveling abroad. It may not cover your medical expenses overseas, so it’s important to contact your insurance provider to see what your health coverage allows. If your insurance provider doesn’t offer a travel option, you can look into short-term travel insurance policies. These usually charge a one-time premium based on benefits and the length of time you’re traveling.

“Taking a few extra precautions and planning ahead can help you avoid a lot of the common issues you can encounter on a trip,” Crowe says.

Need a pre-trip wellness visit?

Tags: medications Travel health guidelines traveling abroad vacation vaccines

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