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Tips for safe and healthy travel during the holidays

November 19, 2019
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Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday travel season, when nearly three quarters of Americans are expected to travel far and wide to celebrate with loved ones or to enjoy a family vacation. Learn how to plan a healthy and safe trip. 

See a Specialist

If you plan to travel outside of the United States, you should schedule an appointment with a travel medicine specialist 4-6 weeks before leaving. They can help you understand the health and safety risks that traveling to another country can pose to you and your family.

Mary Jo Safford, a travel medicine specialist at Baystate Health, says “More than 40 million Americans travel abroad each year. They travel for business, educational, religious, and humanitarian reasons. The mission of pre-travel healthcare is to prepare the traveler for a healthy journey, to promote healthy behaviors and to prevent, control, and contain disease. Baystate provides a patient-centric practice with evidence-based care.”

Baystate’s travel medicine service offers travelers a customized travel health and safety consultation. During the meeting, you will be able to discuss your travel plans and receive specific vaccine and medication recommendations.

KNOW WHAT TO PACK

Safford and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer the following packing tips for healthy travel anywhere:

  • Prescription medicines – All of your needed prescription medications, traveler’s diarrhea antibiotic, medicines to prevent malaria. All medications should be in their original containers.
  • Over-the-counter medicines – Diarrhea medicine such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol, antacid, antihistamine, motion sickness medicine, decongestant, pain and fever medicine such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, mild laxative, mild sedative or sleep aid, cough drops, cough suppressant, or expectorant. All medications should be in their original containers.
  • Medical supplies – Glasses and contacts, medical alert bracelet or necklace, diabetes testing supplies, insulin, inhalers, Epi-Pens.
  • Supplies to prevent illness and injury – Hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol or anti-bacterial hand wipes, water purification tablets, insect repellent (with an active ingredient like DEET or picaridin), sunscreen (with UVA and UVB protection, SPF 15 or higher), sunglasses and hat, earplugs.
  • First-aid kit – 1% hydrocortisone cream, antibacterial or antifungal ointments, digital thermometer, oral rehydration salts, antiseptic wound cleaner, aloe gel for sunburns, insect bite anti-itch gel or cream, bandages, disposable gloves, cotton swabs, tweezers, and eye drops.

TRAVELING WHEN PREGNANT

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend the best time to travel is in the middle of your pregnancy (between weeks 14 and 28). Most common pregnancy emergencies usually happen in the first and third trimesters.

After 28 weeks, it may be harder to move around or sit for long periods of time. Be sure your doctor is aware of your plans and has placed no restrictions on your travel for medical reasons.

It’s also a good idea for not only pregnant women, but all travelers, to take rest breaks when traveling by car. Get out of the carin a safe area to stretch. Even if your body doesn’t feel cramped from being in the car, your bladder may tell you it’s time to stop. And, pack healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts to satisfy any hunger cravings while traveling.

Stretching your legs and keeping well hydrated (consider bottled water, diet, or low-calorie beverages) is important when taking a long car or plane trip because it will help to prevent a blood clot from forming in the leg or elsewhere in the body. The danger is that the clot can travel through the bloodstream and block blood flow to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

TRAVELING WITH KIDS

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers several tips for traveling with kids:

  • Keep an eye out: Remember that the home you may be visiting may not be childproofed. Watch out for danger spots.
  • Follow car safety: Always make sure your child rides in an appropriate car seat, booster seat, or seat belt. In cold weather, children in car seats should wear thin layers with a blanket over the top of the harness straps if needed, not a thick coat or snowsuit. The American FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) also recommends using an approved child restraint device (such as a car seat), when flying with infants under age 2.
  • Buckle up and stay sober: For the safety of children, adults who are driving (and passengers as well) must wear seatbelts, and drivers should never be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Stick to routines: Traveling can disrupt your child’s daily routine, which can be stressful. Try to stick to their usual routines like bedtime and nap schedules.

Visit healthychildren.org, a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for additional tips for flying with babies and children. “Remember to get enough sleep. Traveling can be tiring, especially if you are crossing time zones. Be sure you get enough sleep to have enough energy to enjoy whatever plans you may have,” Safford says.

SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION TODAY

Schedule a travel medicine consultation at Baystate Infectious Diseases at 3300 Main St. in Springfield. To make an appointment, call 413-794-7015.