A Medical Provider's Tips for Travelers
My husband has been a medical provider for over twenty years. I asked him what type of advice he would give people who are getting ready to travel? He said, “Preventative measures in medicine are wise before beginning a trip. It is not a guarantee you will not get sick or hurt when traveling, but a little preparation can boost health or provide guidance in medical circumstances.”
Here are his tips, and some of mine, on planning and taking charge of your health when traveling.
1. Pack a written list of medications and illnesses.
A challenging situation for my husband as a medical provider is when travelers come into the clinic and do not know the medications they are taking on a regular basis - especially if they speak a different language than him. There have been times he has not been able to figure out what a patient may be taking due to a translator not being available on site.
He suggests you write down a list of your medications and illnesses before you leave on a trip. If you don’t know what you take, have your doctor or pharmacist do it for you. I visited my local pharmacy, and a pharmacy tech told me pharmacists would draw up a medication list for travelers.
After you have the list, make three copies. Place one in your suitcase, one in your daypack to carry with you, and leave a copy at home with friends and family. Also, add emergency contacts with phone numbers to the list. My hubby said it is much easier for a foreign medical provider to translate a written record than try to interpret what you may be saying.
- Write a list of medications and illnesses.
- Make three copies - 1) one for your suitcase, 2) one for your daypack 3) one for family members at home.
- Include emergency contacts with phone numbers on the list.
2. Boost your immunity.
The essentials for vitamin supplementation would be vitamin C and a multivitamin. If you have a particular vitamin regime you are already taking, substitute that for the recommended essentials.
Also, make sure you get plenty of rest - seven to eight hours.
3. Schedule a checkup and refill medications.
Get a basic checkup before traveling. It should include:
A basic physical with a primary provider
Review of medications and refill
Don't forget to fill your prescriptions. If you don't remember to do so, it can be time-consuming and costly for your doctor to send chart notes to another physician - especially during international travel.
Before flying on a plane and during the flight, you need to hydrate properly. Flying at higher elevations and breathing the plane's recycled air tends to dehydrate the body.
The recommended intake of water is over 80 ounces a day.
5. Communication is key.
When traveling to another country where the people do not speak your language, know a few basic phrases in the native tongue or carry a dictionary to help you communicate with a doctor that is not your own.
On a past trip to Italy, I had severe pain in my feet when trying to ski the Dolomites. I needed to go down the mountain and could not do so on my skis. I tried to communicate my needs to the guide operating the ski lift but did not speak Italian. If I had known a few basic medical phrases in the language like “I need help,” I could have saved myself, and the guide, a lot of confusion.
6. Beware of G.I. Bugs.
To prevent gastrointestinal pathogens, consider a Hepatitis A vaccination and be cautious with the food and water you consume. If you are not careful, you can contract several gastrointestinal bugs, including:
7. Fight Vertigo.
Carry Meclizine when flying, hiking, boating, or riding high altitude chairlifts during skiing. Meclizine will help with vertigo associated with these activities.
8. Research Over-the-Counter Medication before a trip.
A few years ago, my mother and I traveled to Ireland. During our trip, my mom needed Tylenol for a massive headache. She was allergic to Advil, or anything with Ibuprofen. We searched for Tylenol at a local grocery store but could not find a bottle with the brand name listed on the front. And the generic name, Acetaminophen, was not listed on the back of any of the medicine containers. We could not access the internet, so we asked the grocery clerk to help us. She agreed and disappeared into a back room. After a time, she came back and said, “I think Paracetamol is the same generic medication as your Acetaminophen.” We bought the bottle and hoped that she was right. My mother took the medication for her headache and did not have an allergic reaction to it.
Before you travel, remember most over-the-counter medications have different names in different countries. Research the names before you leave. There are two names you need to look up: 1) Generic name - the name listed on the back of the bottle 2) Brand name - the name listed on the front of the bottle.
9. Call your medical insurance company.
Don’t forget to call your medical insurance company before traveling. You may need to sign required paperwork to be kept on file before you leave. Also, World Nomads offers medical and traveler's insurance at a reasonable cost.
My husband is the provider at Man Alive Clinic.
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