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Vacation health care
Travel health tips
Planning ahead of time can make your travels smoother and help you avoid problems.
- Ask your health insurance carrier what they will cover or pay for (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 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 their health care before you go. If you can, find out where you would go if you needed medical help.
- If you are planning a long flight, schedule your arrival at your destination as close to your usual bedtime as possible, according to the time zone to which you are flying. See: jet lag for tips.
- If you have an important event scheduled, plan to arrive 2 or 3 days in advance so that you will have recovered from jet lag before your appointment.
IMPORTANT ITEMS TO PACK
Important items to bring with you include:
- First aid kit
- Immunization records
- Insurance ID cards
- Medical records for chronic illnesses or recent major surgery
- Name and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care providers
- Nonprescription medications that you might need
- Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses
Talk to your health care provider or visit a travel clinic 4 - 6 weeks before you leave for your trip. You may need to get updated (or booster) vaccinations before you leave.
ON THE ROAD
When traveling, know what steps need to take to prevent different diseases and infections. This includes how to avoid mosquito bites, what foods are safe to eat, where it is safe to eat, how to drink water and other liquids, and proper hand washing.
If you are visiting an area where traveler's diarrhea is common (Mexico, for example), know how to prevent and treat it.
Other tips include:
- Be aware of automobile safety and use seat belts when traveling.
- 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 with children, make sure that they know the name and telephone number of your hotel in case they get separated from you. Write this information down and put it in their pocket or other same place on their person. 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.
Fairley JK, John CC. Health advice for children traveling internationally. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, et al, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap. 168.
Arguin P. Approach to the patient before and after travel. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap. 294.
Ericsson CD. Travel medicine. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 84.
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., and David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine.