The trip you’ve planned for months is finally here! Summer vacations are meant to be full of happy, healthy, stress-free fun in the sun. But did you know that 45 percent of Americans report that they or their travel buddies got sick enough to seek professional care while on vacation?*
You definitely don’t want R&R to lead to the ER! Here are some strategies for staying healthy so you and your family can make feel-good memories.
Part of travel is stepping out of your comfort zone, which for many of us means new stresses on the mind and body. Vacation can bring less sleep, obstacles to keeping our eating and exercise routines, and the excitement of new activities. Planning ahead for these big changes will lower the risk of illness and negative effects.
When planning your trip, be sure the destination is a safe one that has clean living conditions and drinkable water. See a doctor about a month before you leave for a checkup, reviewing your vacation spot and details. He may recommend vaccinations in accordance with the CDC, or give other tips to boost your immune system for the journey. Physicians say that regular exercise can help with this, as can taking daily vitamins including vitamin C.
Pack acetaminophen or ibuprofen for general pain relief and reducing fevers. Bring motion sickness medication if you’re traveling by car, bus, boat, or plane to reduce nausea. Be warned: while these make you feel less woozy, you’ll probably feel very sleepy! It never hurts to pack an antidiarrheal medication for a stomach issue, or an antihistamine in case of an allergy attack or rash. Consult a doctor to help pinpoint the cause and the ideal treatment if a sickness strikes you. Don’t forget to pack health insurance cards.
Finally, many of us run around like crazy preparing for the big trip, cramming in every last task and to-do. While we all like feeling that our “i’s are dotted” and our “t’s are crossed” before vacation, long stressful hours at work and home can do damage to our immune systems. As Bobby McFerrin said: “Don’t worry, be happy.” Vacation is near!
Car crashes are the leading cause of death among healthy travelers.** New roads, unfamiliar surroundings, and bizarre traffic patterns can all lead to minor or major accidents that cause injury. Review your route in advance and pay close attention to other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians. If traveling with young children, make sure the car has the right-sized car seats.
If you’re touring by plane or even cruise ship, you’ll be in close quarters with many other travelers. These carriers aren’t just for people: They carry germs, too! These bacteria and viruses can lead to nasty infections. The best safeguard for you and your loved ones is to wash or sanitize hands often, and keep them away from eyes, mouth, and nose. Germs will likewise be spread in your hotel or sleeping area. Use disinfectant wipes on frequently touched areas like the phone, TV remote, door handles, and sink. Throughout the trip, keep hand sanitizer in your day bag to apply after being in high-traffic areas and before eating.
Insect bites and stings will put the hurt on any outdoor adventure. Use repellant containing DEET or picaridin on exposed skin to keep bugs away. Cover skin entirely at dawn and dusk if you notice mosquitos in the area.
This is also a good practice for sun safety: Wear UPF sun-protective clothing and a broad-brimmed hat, especially at peak exposure times between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., experts recommend. Apply a 30 SPF or higher sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours. Seek shade as much as you can during your trip: A sunburn can cause great discomfort and even more serious symptoms like fever, chills, and blistering.
If you love taking a dip, make sure pool water is chlorinated or if fresh water, that swimming is permitted. For a safe swim, always wade with a buddy! Avoid traveling alone at night, and don’t wear expensive clothing or jewelry that would make you a target for thieves. Try your best to blend in with local residents, and obey their laws and customs.
Once you’re in vacation heaven, unplug from work and worries, surrendering to the present moment. Exercise, meditate, and enjoy quiet moments. Don’t pack your schedule with too many new experiences. Take naps or rest periods to feel refreshed. Use an eye mask, ear plugs, and white-noise machine to minimize disruptions.
It’s tempting to use alcohol to unwind, but remember that too many drinks can make you dehydrated and tired. Moderation is key! If heavy restaurant meals start weighing you down, eat smaller, more frequent meals filled with fruits and veggies. Staying hydrated will keep you feeling energized and healthy during your trip.
Nearly a third of people** say their family member’s illness or injury resulted in the loss of at least two days of vacation time. If anything compromises your physical or mental health during vacation, remember that remote medical help is available. Travelers can arrange a virtual doctor visit through Teladoc, which provides 24/7 access to board-certified physicians via phone, secure video, internet, and mobile devices.
If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical- or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.
If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.