5 Tips for Keeping Your Health & Vacation Plans on Track
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

5 Tips for Keeping Your Health & Vacation Plans on Track

As we are all aware, we are in a new era of travel thanks to a highly transmissible virus—COVID—that is not seasonal and is still very much in circulation. Along with plenty of other viruses and food-, water- and insect borne diseases out there that can throw a wrench in your plans. 

That’s not to say you should stay home, but, you do have to acknowledge that you’re taking a calculated risk when traveling. Take note of the following precautions to minimize the risk of getting sick.

Wear a mask

If you take public transportation to and from a destination, you are likely to end up spending long periods of time in crowded or poorly ventilated areas, increasing chance for exposure to any number of viruses. A good quality, well-fitted mask or respirator is recommended for anyone two years of age or older when in transportation hubs and on planes, trains, buses, and other closed conveyances.While many planes provide excellent air filtration and circulation, there is no guarantee those systems will be on while you are on the ground prior to or after take-off. Wearing a mask is a small inconvenience compared to spending your whole vacation sick in bed.

Be aware that regulations regarding the wearing of masks vary dramatically from country to country. Be sure to follow any requirements and recommendations of the authorities where you are traveling, including those of operators of public transportation or transportation hubs, and pack the necessary mask accordingly.

Be current on vaccines

It goes without saying that you should be up to date on your COVID vaccine. The current vaccine specifically targets the currently circulating strains and offers long-lasting protection. In addition, a flu vaccine as well as a Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine is recommended for adults aged 60 and over. All of these vaccines are readily available at most pharmacies and may even be covered by your insurance.

In addition, if you are traveling abroad, be sure to find out what vaccines are required to enter your destination. As some shots must be administered in a series over the course of a few weeks, it is important to get them scheduled properly. To ensure you are truly ready to go on your planned departure date, contact a travel clinic.

SVMC offers two travel clinics: one through the department of Infectious Disease and another through SVMC’s Occupational Health office. While some tour operators may not consider certain vaccines necessary, a pre-consult will make you aware of the availability of vaccines and the potential outcomes if you choose to skip them. Ultimately, how well you are—or are not—protected is up to you but, as with all decisions, the best decisions are informed ones.

Be proactively protective. If COVID taught us nothing else, it was how important sanitization can be. Be sure to carry hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol with you and use it frequently.

Eat and drink wisely. If you are traveling to an area where the safety of water or food is questionable, make smart choices. When possible, opt for sealed beverages including water, soda, and juices. To be extra cautious, choose carbonated beverages as the presence of bubbles indicate that the bottle or can has been properly sealed. And because ice is typically made from tap water, you’re going to want to pass on chilling down your beverages. This includes skipping ‘the rocks’ in your cocktails, as the alcohol content may not be high enough to kill the bacteria in the ice.

On the food front, remember that high heat kills dangerous germs, so food that is cooked thoroughly and served hot is usually safe. If possible, you should avoid consuming raw foods. If enjoying raw fruits or vegetables, when possible, peel them yourself or wash them with bottled water as not all tap water maybe safe to consume. 

Keep bugs at bay. Mosquito- and/or tick-borne diseases exist all over the world. Protect yourself by treating your clothing and backpack with the insecticide permethrin. Available in liquid, powders, and sprays, use it to treat your clothing, backpack, and gear. Permethrin should NOT be applied directly to your skin. Permethrin-treated fabrics should effectively repel insects for 40 days or five washings. Be sure to follow the package instructions carefully to get the full benefit of the repellent.

One last tip, if you are traveling abroad, consider enrolling in the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP). A free service available to U.S. citizen and nationals traveling and living abroad, STEP connects you to the U.S. consulate or embassy closest to your destination(s). When you enroll, you will receive important safety information related to your destination. Enrollment also enables the U.S. Embassy to reach you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.

 

Dr. Marie George, MD is an Infectious Disease Specialist in Southwestern Vermont Healthcare in Bennington, VT

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