Medical Musts or Maybes When Traveling

Written by admin on November 15, 2009 – 3:33 pm -

Anyone who’s traveling these days should take extra health precautions. This isn’t targeted only to people going from one continent to another. They may be taking a driving or train trip—or for that matter, going to visit friends or relatives during the upcoming holiday season. But that doesn’t negate the need to be prepared.

Driving long distances can play havoc with people’s bodies. Do stop every couple of hours if only to take a walk around the car even if you don’t need to use the facilities. Some rest stops are cleaner than others, so it doesn’t hurt to take some baby wipes with you, even if you’re not traveling with the infant or toddler set.

Whichever way you’re traveling, having a bottle of water with you is a good idea and even if you’re the best of friends or family, don’t share them. Take individual ones and fill them from water fountains when you stop for gas. I’m not implying you do this in Mexico – but if you’re close to home, chances are the water’s safe to drink. If there’s any question about this, buy a gallon bottle and fill your personal bottles from it. During these days of coughs, colds and flu, why chance catching something you might not if you’re extra cautious?

I’m not one who sees germs everywhere. But having just flown in three planes for cumulatively 24 hours, my antenna is at an all-time high. Considering the hacking and sneezing going on, I bet some people are feeling not so hot (or perhaps they’re feeling too hot since they’ve come down with a fever) because they contracted someone else’s germs and made them their own. Airplanes (whether or not the air is circulated) can’t help but be breeding grounds for infections and one sneeze may be enough to do the trick.

When I take long flights, I use an ointment (a type of menthol one) in my nostrils. My others musts are my own blanket, pillow and items the airlines may have cleaned but have not 100% sanitized.

My travel kit includes earphones, a tiny bottle of Purell and hand wipes. Many people tend to have sensitive stomachs when confronted with new foods – so pills for any and every GI problem are in my survival kits. Ditto for antacids. There’s nothing worse than a sour stomach when embarking on a new adventure.

Don’t forget throat lozenges in case you feel a tickle in your throat. A friend takes an entire sack of homeopathic drugs. She swears by them and come to think of it, never gets sick when she’s away from home.

Some people definitely have better immune systems than others. Not departing on a trip exhausted definitely gives most travelers a step up on overcoming jet-lag, adjusting to food, water and air in new environments.

Be sure your shots are up to date. Contact your doctor or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a list of necessary vaccinations. Allow plenty of time for this step in case you need to get vaccines that require more than one dose if you’re headed overseas. Even if you’re just going camping, be certain your tetanus shot is up to date. A cut shouldn’t necessitate your making a trip to the nearest hospital if you’ve encountered a rusty nail.

When traveling to a location where I may contract an exotic disease and won’t have access to an English-speaking doctor, I pack Tamiflu and Cipro with printouts with when and how to use them. Happily, I’ve never had the need.

This may sound crazy but pack a bar of soap, one you usually use or have tested. I should confess that I caused a houseguest to contract (what felt like) a killer case of hives. He was incapacitated from welts and the subsequent itching. When I had to ask my Paris pharmacist for some cream so this person could move without being miserable, I had a case of serious humiliation.

Even though houseguests may not be a blessing, death by savon isn’t polite. Plus, it’s embarrassing when the story is told – and retold. And this type of happening invariably makes the rounds. “She did what?” is said with giggles and more than a bit of incredibility.

What do you pack when you’re traveling? Prescriptions (and always get a written one for refills from your MD if you’re going to be away for any period of time) and your usual medications are givens. But do you have other musts? There’s no way I could have included everything.


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