If you’re planning a trip with your whole family, there are some important healthy travel tips that can help make your vacation a safer and healthier one for the youngest and oldest members of your family. By planning ahead, you can lower the risk of some health issues and make sure you’re prepared to handle illnesses or injuries that occur while you’re away from home.
Healthy travel strategies for all ages
If you’ll be traveling overseas, make an appointment to see your physician at least a month and a half before your trip to ensure that you have time to receive any needed immunizations or boosters. If possible, young children should have completed their routine immunizations before traveling abroad or to areas in the U.S. where there are current outbreaks of diseases such as measles and whooping cough.
Some immunizations for diseases that are common at certain overseas destinations are not appropriate for young children or people with certain chronic health problems. A travel medicine specialist can advise you on the risks that these diseases can present to people who are unvaccinated so you can decide whether it makes sense to visit the destination with your young children or adults living with health problems.
Families traveling abroad to stay with friends and family may also be at an increased risk for some diseases, including insect-, food-, and water-borne illnesses. That’s because these travelers often stay longer, increasing their risk of exposure to disease, and eat local food and beverages prepared in people’s homes. Talk with a travel medicine specialist to find out what precautions you should take to lower your risk of these types of illnesses when visiting family abroad.
How to keep your young children healthier while traveling
If your child has a chronic health condition, make sure you bring any medication he or she takes regularly and any needed equipment, such as a nebulizer for asthma. It’s also important to protect your children from overexposure to the sun and insect bites that can spread a range of diseases including Lyme disease, Zika virus, West Nile virus, and certain types of encephalitis. Talk with your child’s pediatrician to find out what type of sunscreen and insect repellant are safe based on your child’s age and check for ticks after spending time outside.
Young children can be more at risk for heat illness. Make sure they stay hydrated by providing water, breastmilk, or formula frequently. Watch for signs of dehydration and heat illness, including:
- Fatigue or lack or energy
- Dry lips and tongue
- Abdominal or muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
Water and vehicle safety are other important factors in healthy travel. If your young children are in the water, you need to be too and within arm’s length. When traveling by plane or car, your child should be in an appropriate child safety seat at all times.
Healthy travel tips for older people
Older family members are more likely to be living with conditions like heart disease, arthritis, and cognitive issues. To make their trip healthier and safer, follow these healthy travel tips:
- Pack needed medications in their original containers from the pharmacy in a carry-on bag. It’s wise to carry a complete list of all your medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. If you’re supposed to take your medications at a certain time of day, ask your physician how to deal with travel that will take you across time zones or date lines.
- Make sure your comprehensive medical records are available for any physician who treats you while you’re away from home. Your physician can provide you with a copy of your records or you could work with a health advisor to build a secure, electronic universal medical record.
- Take steps to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Talk to your doctor about whether you should wear compression stockings or take low-dose aspirin to reduce the risk of blood clots.
- Build up your strength before your trip. Travel can be physically demanding. Several months before your trip, ask your doctor to recommend a graduated exercise program that can help you build strength, flexibility, and stamina.
For travelers of any age, it’s useful to have the name of a physician at your destination who you can turn to if you fall ill while traveling. Your health insurer or health advisor can provide that information.