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Keeping Healthy While Travelling

Nothing ruins a vacation faster than being sick.
Many of us can relate and today are happy to make known our own nightmarish stories about waking up in another country with cold sweats, a fever and nausea, praying we could be home in our own bed. A friend of mine was sick the entire four days aboard a luxury train ride in Europe. She’ll tell you that she missed out on some of the most stunning views of the countryside, while (regretfully) memorizing the interior decor of her tiny bathroom.

There are no guarantees that you won’t pick up germs from that overly-friendly ticket agent at the airport, but there are some things you can do before you leave and while on vacation that can help you remain in good health.

Get all your ducks in a row before you travel:

  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment and if necessary, get any boosters, shots and immunizations completed as well as up-to-date prescriptions on your regular medications. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great site for travelers.  The CDC recommends that travelers receive updated vaccines before every trip. These vaccines may include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and a yearly flu shot. Not sure what you might need? The CDC website has a drop-down menu where you select your country of destination, and a checklist of special conditions such if you are traveling with children, have a chronic disease, are immune-compromised, pregnant, etc. 
  • Double-check your health insurance coverage while traveling. Call your provider and ask specifics about what processes take place if you get sick in your destination country. Make sure you are traveling with copies of your insurance card, claim forms, doctors’ prescriptions, and plenty of your medications, taking into account possible extended travel.  Those travelers from the U.S. who are normally covered by Medicare, here’s some bad news: you are not covered by Medicare abroad.  The Social Security Medicare program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside of the United States.  Senior citizens may wish to contact the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) or a travel agent for information about foreign medical care coverage with private Medicare supplement plans.
  • Pack smart remembering items such as  your prescription medications, over the counter pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, motion-sickness aides (candied ginger works in our family), anti-itch medication (for bug bites), anti-bacterial soap and wipes, a small tube of antibacterial gel, adhesive bandages, sunscreen, and insect repellent, to name a few.

While on vacation, the following are some ideas for remaining healthy for your entire trip:

  • Wash your hands frequently in hot, soapy water. If water is not available, wipe your hands with a moist towelette or use an anti-bacterial gel.
  • Watch what you eat and drink. If anything looks suspicious, spoiled or poorly refrigerated, skip it.
  • Drink plenty of bottled water and make sure you take your prescription medications on time.
  • Don’t touch any animals.
  • Wear gloves in crowded areas where you need to grab handrails, door handles and the like.
  • Get moderate exercise such as walking.


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