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Keep health in mind when traveling this summer

If you have travel plans this summer, you’re not alone. Approximately 45 percent of Americans take a summer vacation. Whether you’re planning an African safari or a trip to Las Vegas, new experiences and fun times await.

However, travelers occasionally cope with medical issues while away from home. Those traveling in their golden years often have chronic conditions or lower resiliency, which can increase the risk of complications. Take precautions to stay healthy and ensure you’re prepared. Here are some travel tips to keep in mind:

Medication management

It’s not uncommon for older adults to take five or more medications per day. Be sure to pack all medications in your carry-on bag, not your checked luggage, even if you don’t need to take your medication until you get to your destination. You never know when your luggage may be lost or delayed. Pack extra medication in case you need to extend your stay for any reason.

To ensure your drugs aren’t confiscated, keep medicines in original, clearly labeled containers or packaging and bring a copy of your prescriptions. The prescription and medication labels should match the name on your photo ID. If you’re traveling abroad, check with your destination country’s embassy to make sure there are no restrictions on medications.

Documentation

It helps to have a record of your medical needs and history at hand in case you experience an illness while on vacation.

If you’ve recently had a medical issue or hospital stay, bring copies of your medical records. Patients with heart conditions should carry a copy of their most recent EKG. Take photos of your records and make sure your traveling companion has access to your mobile device in case you become incapacitated.

Carry a list of medications with dosage information, including over-the-counter medicine, vitamins and herbal supplements. Keep a copy in your wallet or purse and your mobile device at all times, not just on vacation. You can also take pictures of your medication bottles with labels showing.

Those who have allergies or unique medical problems should wear a medical alert bracelet. In an emergency, first responders will be able to see whether they need to take any medical issues into consideration.

Environmental concerns

There’s no place like home — literally. When you travel, your body is exposed to temperatures and elements you might not find in Hawaii. Remember that seniors are more sensitive to extreme heat and cold, and dress accordingly.

Allow a day or two to recover from jet lag. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (bottled water is safest in unfamiliar places, even if the water is deemed safe to drink).

If you’re traveling to a developing country, don’t drink tap water and avoid raw or undercooked meats and seafood, raw fruits and vegetables and unpasteurized dairy products. Also, be wary of food prepared from street vendors.

If you get traveler’s diarrhea, stay hydrated and take an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication such as loperamide (Imodium). Diarrhea can affect the efficacy of certain medications so consult with a physician if you’re experiencing symptoms for more than 24 hours.

Mosquito repellent with at least 20 percent DEET or 20 percent picaridin can protect you from mosquito-borne infections. If wearing sunscreen (which you should always do!), apply the sunscreen first, followed by the repellent.

If you have chronic medical conditions, or if you are traveling to a part of the world that does not have high-quality medical care, purchasing medical evacuation insurance is a good idea.


Dr. Johnnie Yates is a family medicine and travel medicine physician for Kaiser Permanente Hawaii.


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