This summer, an estimated 195 million Americans will pack up their car, board a plane, or buy a bus or train ticket and head out of town on vacation. About 80 percent of us have at least one trip planned before the next school year starts.
Though you might carefully plan out your lodging, meals, and sightseeing excursions, you can’t always plan for travel’s little emergencies, which can pop up when you least expect or want them.
“Prevention is the key to avoiding accidents or illness while on vacation,” said Jeffrey Pellegrino, PhD, American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and director of health sciences at Aultman College. To avoid having an illness or injury ruin the vacation you’ve been planning all year, follow these tips to keep you and your family safe while traveling.
To avoid a breakdown or blowout while you’re driving full-speed down the interstate, give your car a thorough tune-up before you leave. Check that the tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. Look for any cracks or other signs of wear in the tires, belts, and hoses. Top off all your fluids — gas, engine coolant, oil, power steering, windshield washer, and automatic transmission. Test your lights and turn signals to make sure they work.
Stock an emergency kit with jumper cables, flares, flashlight, and medicines in the trunk, in case you get stuck somewhere. Before you leave, check that everyone in the car has their seatbelt fastened and that children are in age-appropriate safety seats. As you drive, obey the rules of the road. Follow local speed limits, and watch for changing road conditions (for example, stormy weather or construction).
The humidity in airplane cabins is usually less than 20 percent, which can easily dehydrate you — especially on a long flight. Drink a bottle of water before you board, and continue to drink water or juice during the flight.
Sitting for more than six hours at a time without moving leads to sluggish blood flow, which can increase your risk for blood clots. Get up and stretch your legs every couple of hours, or flex and point your feet to work your calves while you sit. Avoid crossing your legs while you sit.
Because cabin air recirculates, and you can never be sure which germs boarded along with your fellow passengers, bring along a bottle of hand sanitizer or a pack of wipes. Clean your hands often during the flight – especially before you eat – so you don’t catch anything.
If you plan to travel overseas, see your doctor, visit a travel health clinic, or check the Travelers’ Health website from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) beforehand, to find out which vaccinations are recommended for the country you’re visiting. Bring copies of any important medical records and your drug prescriptions with you. Check that your health insurance will cover you outside the U.S. You might want to consider buying supplemental insurance to pay for any doctor visits or hospital stays while you’re away.
Before you go, check the U.S. State Department’s website to see if there are any travel warnings or alerts for your destination. Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which will give the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your destination a record of your trip, in case you need to be contacted or you get into trouble while you’re away. The program will also send you safety updates about the country you’re visiting. Before you leave, make copies of your passport and itinerary, and give them to friends or family to keep at home.
Be careful about what you eat and drink on your vacation. In some countries, the water isn’t safe for Americans to consume. Ask whether your hotel or resort filters their water. They should be able to tell you if you’ll need to drink and brush your teeth with bottled water. Also avoid eating uncooked fruits and vegetables in destinations where the water isn’t safe to drink.
Insects are another concern when you travel abroad, especially if you’re headed to a tropical climate. Bug bites are more than an annoyance. Mosquitoes can transmit serious infections, including malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and Zika. No matter where you travel, carry along an insect repellant containing DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Apply it before you go outside, especially during the peak biting hours of dawn and dusk. Pregnant women should check the CDC’s travel alerts, and avoid traveling to any country where the Zika virus is actively spreading.
June 27, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN