July 14, 1997
Volume 49, No. 35
Traveling can be made healthy, safe and worry free with a few preparations. Start your trip by checking with your health care provider to ensure that your routine immunizations are up-to-date.
-A tetanus/diphtheria booster is recommended every ten years.
-Flu vaccine is most effective when given in late fall.
-Pneumonia vaccine should be given to individuals over age 65 or according to your health care provider's recommendations.
For travel to developing countries, allow no fewer than three months to receive specific immunizations. Some of these vaccines are given in a series of injections, so time must be allowed for vaccine efficacy. These may include immunizations for hepatitis A and B, menignitis, yellow fever, rabies, typhoid, polio, Japanese encephalitis and malaria. Your travel clinic or provider may have other vaccine recommendations as well.
Plan to pack a first-aid kit that includes over-the-counter medications you may use and keep medications in the original containers. Consider packing aspirin, acetaminophen, antacids, antihistamines, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, bandages, mild antidiarrheals, sore throat lozenges, cough medicine and any prescription medications you are taking. Ask your health care provider for copies of your prescriptions in the event you lose your medications. Also carry any dental and eyewear supplies you may use. In the unlikely event of eyeglass breakage or contact lens loss, a copy of your prescription will facilitate replacement. Be aware that some countries have restrictions on what type of medications you can bring into the country, so verify this with your travel information source. Safe drinking water is a concern in many countries so carry your own water purifier or drink bottled water, and do not use tap water-even for teeth brushing. Don't even consider using ice cubes.
Jet lag, or accommodation to a change in our body clocks, is a common problem. Forget all of the latest fads or touted cures. Avoiding dehydration and getting rest when you feel fatigued will help. Sleep is the best antidote for fatigue, even if it is in two to three hour increments.
The air quality on airplanes is also problematic. Call your airline and find out if your flight is smoke-free. Some smoke-free airlines are Delta, Swissair and Aer Lingus. Cabin air is recirculated and very dry, so drinking a lot of nonalcoholic, decaffeinated fluids will keep you comfortable during the flight and help your system acclimate to its new time and environment. Another key to a comfortable flight is moving your legs frequently while sitting or walking in the cabin when permissible, especially on flights lasting more than four hours.
Safety is a concern in any locality. To ensure your well-being, obtain information from your travel clinic, travel agency or the Department of State on recent crime and political instability. Protect your valuables, currency, passports and transportation tickets in secure under-clothing travel pouches or in outerwear designed with Velcro or zippered pockets to prevent theft. Limit your baggage to what you personally can manage, and try not to carry irreplaceable items.
Traveling is very exciting and educational but, at the same time, hectic, crowded and tiring. With preparation and the "right stuff," you can survive and even enjoy your trip abroad.
Mary Jo Warner is an Allergy and Travel Clinic nurse at Emory Health
Service. "Wellness" is coordinated by the Seretean Center for
Health Promotion at the School of Public Health.
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