Staying Healthy on Your Vacation

Everyone looks forward to going on vacation. It is a break from work or school, a change in your normal routine, an opportunity to go someplace interesting, and a scheduled time for rest and relaxation. Most of all, going on vacation means having fun. After the immense amount of time spent planning and eagerly awaiting that special time of the year, the last thing anyone wants is for something to spoil your good time. Besides not going on vacation, what’s a bigger bummer than having a rainstorm flood your dreams of basking in the sun on a tropical island? Getting sick!

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t even consider what potential viruses and bacterial infections await you when you plan your trip. But, there are a few nasty bugs you should be aware of in order to prevent them from ruining your trip.

"The world is big and beautiful and we can enjoy it at our own pace without taking unnecessary risks and by protecting ourselves whenever we can," says Dr. Mirella Salvatore, acting director of the Travel Medicine Service of the Division of Infectious Diseases at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. 

According to Dr. Salvatore, you should consider the following checklist to help you stay healthy and active on your next vacation:

Update your vaccinations. If you are planning a trip you should consult your doctor or a travel medicine specialist four to eight weeks before you leave to make sure that you are up to date with the routine vaccinations, including tetanus, MMR and pneumococcus for the elderly. High-risk destinations may require additional vaccines. Elderly travelers and people with health issues should check with a physician even before booking a trip to a high-risk destination.

Carry all your medications with you. Do not assume you will be able to find your medications in a foreign country or even another state. This includes any prescription or over-the-counter drug that you take regularly or occasionally. Keep all drugs in their original containers to avoid any problems with customs officials.

Pack Imodium in case of mild diarrhea. While on vacation, only eat meat that is thoroughly cooked. You should also steer clear of raw vegetables, dairy products sold by small independent vendors, and any dairy products that seem to have been left out in the sun. In addition, talk to your doctor about bringing an antibiotic for the treatment of traveler's diarrhea. 

Pack a pain relieverAcetaminophen or Tylenol will come in handy to ward off pain or fever. However, consult a physician immediately if you have any of the following symptoms while on vacation: bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, high fever or dehydration.

Don't forget the insect repellent. Bring insect repellent containing 30 percent to 35 percent DEET to reduce the chances of infection with insect-transmitted diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Use a bed net at night if you are in a malaria region. 

Pack important first-aid supplies. Your travel bag would not be complete without sunscreen, antibacterial wipes or gels, and first-aid supplies such as Band-Aids, disinfectant and antibiotic ointment. Also bring supplies in case of unforeseen illness.

Bring updated emergency contact information. Have copies of emergency contact numbers, copies of all evacuation insurance, and contact information and addresses for local embassies.

Suggestions for long flights. If you are on a long flight you should also try to stand up and walk and/or stretch for several minutes every hour or so, to avoid blood clots that can form in your legs. To avoid jet lag, eat a light meal during your flight, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Make water your BFF. Travelers frequently become dehydrated during long flights. Drink bottled water or fruit juices before and during your flight to prevent dehydration.

Following this advice will help you stay healthy, happy, and relaxed on vacation. Don't let a preventable illness get in the way of having a great time!

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