NEW YORK (July 2011) — There are millions of vacation destinations to visit this summer and thousands of sights to see, but there is one surefire way to ruin your trip — getting sick. Although you may not be thinking about viruses and bacterial infections when you plan your trip, there are a few nasty bugs you should be aware of as you pack your bags.
"The world is big and beautiful and we can enjoy it at our own pace without taking unnecessary risks and by protecting ourselves whenever we can," says Dr. Mirella Salvatore, acting director of the Travel Medicine Service of the Division of Infectious Diseases at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Dr. Salvatore offers the following checklist to help you stay healthy and active in whatever corner of the world you may find yourself this summer.
- Update your vaccinations. If you are planning a trip you should consult your doctor or a travel medicine specialist four to eight weeks before you leave to make sure that you are up to date with the routine vaccinations, including tetanus, MMR and pneumococcus for the elderly. High-risk destinations may require additional vaccines. Elderly travelers and people with health issues should check with a physician even before booking a trip to a high-risk destination.
- Pack a healthy travel kit. Prepare a separate bag that will get you through any unforeseen illness and help you manage any chronic conditions while away from home.
- Bring all your medications with you. Do not assume you will be able to find your medications in a foreign country. This includes any prescription or over-the-counter drug that you take regularly or occasionally. Keep all drugs in their original containers to avoid any problems with customs officials.
- Pack Imodium for mild diarrhea. While on vacation, only eat meat that is thoroughly cooked. You should also steer clear of raw vegetables, dairy products sold by small independent vendors, and any dairy products that seem to have been left out in the sun. You should also talk to your doctor about bringing an antibiotic for the treatment of traveler's diarrhea.
- Pack acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever. However, you should consult a physician immediately if you have any of the following symptoms while on vacation: bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, high fever or dehydration.
- Don't forget the insect repellent. Bring insect repellent containing 30 percent to 35 percent DEET. Insect repellents reduce the chances of infection with insect-transmitted diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Use a bed net at night if you are in a malaria region.
- Also remember to include important first-aid supplies. Your travel bag would not be complete without sunscreen, antibacterial wipes or gels, and first-aid supplies such as Band-Aids, disinfectant and antibiotic ointment.
- Keep your emergency contact information handy. Have copies of emergency contact numbers, copies of all evacuation insurance, and contact information and addresses for local embassies.
- Suggestions for long flights. If you are on a long flight you should also try to stand up and walk and/or stretch for several minutes every hour or so, to avoid blood clots that can form in your legs. To avoid jet lag, eat a light meal during your flight, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Drink water. Travelers frequently become dehydrated during long flights. Drink fruit juices or bottled water to prevent dehydration during your flight.
NewYork-Presbyterian HospitalNewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,353 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including more than 220,000 visits to its emergency departments — more than any other area hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. For more information, visit www.nyp.org.