Summer is the season of vacation and exploration, and one in four Americans will hit the road this summer in search of fun and relaxation, according to the American Automobile Association. While exciting, traveling can present hazards that can turn a vacation into a health emergency. The key rule in healthy and happy traveling is “be prepared” to ensure that all family members—from kids to grandparents—have a safe vacation.
A week before leaving home, take an inventory of prescription medications and make sure you have enough to last the entire trip. Refill necessary prescriptions and sort medications into a pill organizer labeled with different days of the week. Buy a different colored medication organizer for each family member to avoid confusion.
When traveling, especially overseas, don’t put all your medications in one place. Pack your organizer in a carry-on bag and an emergency supply of medication in your suitcase. You may even divide the emergency supply between two suitcases if you check them, so that if one is lost or delayed in transit, you won’t be caught short. Locate a 24-hour pharmacy in each of the places you’ll be staying, and, if you get your prescriptions filled at a chain store, keep a list of stores along your route handy.
Small health setbacks can lead to real crisis. For example, a gastrointestinal bug is a common cause of dehydration, so an emergency kit with common over-the-counter medications is essential to healthy family traveling:
- Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory
- Anti-diarrheal medications
- A nausea-control medication to prevent car sickness
- Band-Aids and antiseptic cream
- One tube each of hydrocortisone and antibiotic ointment
Make sure your tetanus shots are up to date before you travel. If you’re traveling to a developing country, infections from most diseases can be avoided with some planning. Consult a Summit Medical Group infectious disease expert to see which inoculations are recommended, especially those for malaria and hepatitis.
BE AWARE IF YOU ARE TRAVELING TO A REGION WITH REPORTED LYME DISEASE
Know the symptoms so you can consult a doctor immediately. Symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within a day to a month after infection and include:
- A non-itchy, red rash that can appear in large, round bull’s-eye marks with a clear center
- Stiff neck
- Aching muscles
- Joint pain
- Facial nerve problems
“Lyme disease symptoms can be like those of other diseases such as the flu,” says Summit Medical Group travel medicine and infectious diseases expert Redentor S. Mendiola, Jr, MD, who emphasizes that 10% of people who get Lyme disease never have a rash.
PRACTICE GOOD HAND HYGIENE
Wash your hands often, especially in well-traveled public places like amusement parks, hotels lobbies, and rest stops. Clean hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating and after changing diapers. If you use a changing station in a rest room, clean it with a disinfectant wipe before use.
For more tips on summer travel, learn more about shots for travel, or visit the Travelers Heath Information section of The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.