Health Issues When Travelling (Part I)


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Health Issues When Travelling (Part I)

October 15, 2014



What are some of things I should think about when traveling?

Getting sick can certainly ruin any trip whether it is for business or pleasure.  You will want to stay healthy by thinking ahead.  The first step, when planning a trip is making sure you think about your existing medical conditions and any accommodation you might need en route or at your destination.  Secondly, you will want to consider any particular risks that are specific to your destination.


What about these things I’ve heard about swine flu and other diseases you can get from other countries?

Of course, the recent outbreak of H1N1  influenza (AKA Swine flu) has brought the issue of healthy travel to the forefront.  The recent outbreak was centered in and around Mexico city.  Fortunately, those cases that have occurred in the United States were less severe.  Currently, the Centers for Disease Control are recommending that nonessential travel to Mexico be restricted.  There are no current restrictions on domestic travel.  For the most up to date information, check with the CDC or your local health department.


What are the things I should do for travel even if I’m not going to Mexico?

That depends on your destination.  If you are going to an area that has yellow fever, you will want to consider vaccination. If you are going to an area that has malaria, you will require antimalarial preventative medications.  Of course, there is the consideration of traveler’s diarrhea as well—this may require that you take special medications with you. The best thing to do is to establish a clear itinerary and discuss it with your doctor about six weeks before your trip.  If there are specific or unusual circumstances present, your doctor may refer you to a specialist. 


Aside from infectious diseases, what other issues should I be aware of?

There are many potential hazards while traveling that may affect your health.  These include sun and heat exposure, insects, altitude issues, blood clots, motion sickness, and water safety to name a few.  We will cover the first two of these topics today.


Sun and Heat Exposure while traveling

Depending on your destination and your activities, you may need to be particularly cautious about sun exposure.  Staying indoors during the hottest/brightest part of the day may be the most prudent course of action.  Of course, drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration is important.  If you can gradually introduce yourself to the new, hot environment, that can be helpful.  Use sunscreen liberally, and try to take frequent breaks from the heat and the sun.  Wear a hat and protective clothing as much as possible.


In summary, plan your trip carefully, talk to your doctor several weeks before the trip and check the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization for up to date information in the days leading up to your trip.  In future articles, we will cover additional travel related illnesses as well as considering any chronic illnesses you may have and how to seek medical care when you’re away from home.


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