Before you set out on a driving vacation, you get your car checked out and serviced, right? That’s good planning – who wants stressful (often expensive) breakdowns on the road? Use the same good planning to make sure you’re in good shape for your trip. Take the time to anticipate the kind of problems that can make you ill or cut short your holiday. Even if you have health insurance, getting sick away from home can cost money, time and stress.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates reveal that every year more than 10 million Americans become ill from travel. If you don’t want to become a statistic, take a few precautions with a simple checklist.
Know before you go
If you’ll be visiting wooded areas in the United States, take precautions against tick bites, which can cause Lyme disease. Wear long sleeves and light-colored long pants so you can easily spot ticks. Tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pant legs into your socks. Treat your clothing with a spray containing permethrin and use a repellent containing DEET on your skin. Avoid tick-infested areas, such as leaf litter under trees, and avoid long grasses and brush along pathways. Do not sit on tree stumps or fallen logs. Check for ticks once you are indoors.
If this is the year you’re taking that exotic vacation outside the United States, check the CDC website for health-hazard hotspots. If you’re going to an area where there have been outbreaks of malaria or other serious illnesses, see your doctor before traveling for advice and/or medications. Plan to use “mosquito avoidance” techniques such as wearing long pants, sleeping under mosquito netting and using insect repellents.
Get your shots
Make sure your tetanus shot is current. Doctors recommend every 10 years, but if you suffer a deep puncture wound while traveling and haven’t had a booster in five years, they advise you get one immediately. If you normally get flu shots, check with your doctor well in advance of your trip to see if he recommends getting one before you go.
See the dentist
One of the most common health reasons for trip interruptions is a dental emergency. A pre-trip checkup will reveal such problems as a loose cap or crown or the need for a filling. Take care of these in advance and you reduce the chances that you’ll be searching for a dentist in a strange city on a weekend or at night.
Like a good scout, pack all the prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that you might possibly need: first-aid supplies, analgesics, antacids, etc. (Don’t forget the Pepto-Bismol – for several of the most common travel problems.)
This can cover not only trip interruptions and lost baggage, but also medical treatment and evacuation. Consider the healthcare facilities at your destination and the kind of activities you might try, from mountain climbing to water-skiing to parasailing. Weigh the cost of a good travel policy against the (very) high cost of being transported home in an emergency.
Finally, if you do get sick while you’re away, be sure to contact your doctor when you return. Let the doc know where you traveled and describe the nature of your illness, because a number of infectious diseases and parasites can present symptoms weeks or months after you return home.