By Tamara Seymour
Healthnotes Newswire (June 11, 2009)—No matter where you’re heading on your next vacation—to the other side of your state or the other side of the planet—remember that your health comes first. With a little planning, careful packing, and conscientious traveling, you and your family can steer clear of unwelcome surprises and arrive home healthy, happy, and revitalized. Before you hit the road, take a look at these tried and true travel tips.
Do your homework
Preparing for a safe and healthy vacation should include gathering as much information as possible about where you’re going and what you expect to do. Ask yourself a couple of key questions:
• Am I traveling to a place that may pose health risks? If you’re going abroad, ask your healthcare provider at least six weeks in advance what immunizations or medications you and your family may need to protect yourself against common travel diseases, such as diarrhea and hepatitis.
• Am I healthy right now? Start focusing on health and fitness prior to departure. Strengthen your immune system by getting plenty of rest and eating right. Get that heart pumping and build up your endurance through exercise, especially if your vacation involves strenuous activities, like hiking or biking.
Pack like a pro
Vacations are never completely predictable, even when you’ve spent weeks planning. To make packing less of a chore, check off these four items first:
• The right clothing—Know your destination’s weather conditions and terrain and pack accordingly. Include sturdy shoes and clothing that protects you from sunburn and insect bites and stings.
• Travel-friendly first aid—A basic travel first aid kit should include fever reducers, an antiseptic, bandages, antidiarrheals, antacids, and insect repellent. Planning to jump aboard a boat or venture down bumpy back roads? Consider adding motion sickness remedies. Packing prescription meds? Be sure to bring along a copy of the prescription.
• Vital vitamins—Visiting new places can mean major modifications to your diet. Vitamin supplementation can replenish the nutrients that may be missing from your vacation meals.
• Super-sized sunscreen—Many vacations involve spending lots of time in the warm, welcoming sun. But remember—the sun’s rays may be more intense than what you’re used to at home. Don’t let sunburn spoil the fun.
Let good sense be your guide
Once you’ve arrived to your vacation spot, take steps to reduce risks and guard your good health. Follow these guidelines to avoid common travelers’ troubles:
• Rest easy—Jet lag, often triggered by traveling across time zones, may leave you listless. If your vacation includes an extended journey, take a day to rest once you arrive and let your body adjust. Then gradually add some activity as your energy level improves. If your schedule is too tight, try to match your bed time to the local schedule so you catch up to the sun.
• Watch what you eat (and drink)—You’ll want to sample the local fare, but beware: traveler’s diarrhea is one of the most common health problems people encounter while vacationing. The culprit: usually microorganisms found in food or water. If the drinking water is questionable, buy bottled. Stay away from raw or undercooked meats and seafood. Choose clean and well-attended restaurants.
• Feed your thirst—Stay hydrated. Dehydration can sometimes go unnoticed until it’s bad enough to require medical attention. Carry a water bottle with you and take frequent chugs, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Tamara Seymour writes on a variety of a topics, including health, travel, and education, and has contributed to Transitions Abroad, Backhome Magazine, The New York Times, among other magazines and newspapers. She also works with not-for-profits and entrepreneurs on their communications efforts, such as public awareness campaigns and promotional materials.
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