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Healthy Travel

It’s July and time for vacations full of fun and relaxation. What could possibly go wrong? Well, unfortunately, a lot of things. The ideal vacation can easily turn into family feuding, missing that important exit on the interstate, or, one of the worst vacation woes, experiencing illness or injury.

Planning to protect your health, especially when traveling internationally, is an important part of your preparations, says Dr. Scott Prince of the University of Kentucky HealthCare Travel Clinic. Prince recommends starting with a local health department or family physician if you need vaccinations or counseling. A clinic specializing in travel health may be necessary for trips of long duration or to exotic locations.

Consult travel experts
Travel clinic experts can review your travel itineraries and immunization status, recommend vaccines and preventive measures, plus provide counsel on social aspects such as eating and drinking. For instance, Prince says Americans know that salad bars are usually healthy fare, but they present one of the highest risks among foods that can make you ill when overseas. Travel clinic experts can also advise you about local medical resources available during the trip and provide up-to-date information on specific health risks or concerns relevant to the location.

“If you’re just going on a Caribbean cruise, specific counseling is often not critical. You may, however, need some general vaccines like hepatitis A and typhoid,” says Prince.

The CDC Vessel Sanitation Program provides inspection scores and outbreak information useful for those selecting a cruise. The information is online at www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/default.htm. For those going to a location a bit more exotic than the Caribbean, it’s a good idea to sit down with someone familiar with the specific areas of the country you will be visiting.

“We have daily updates about what health threats are breaking and where,” says Prince. “Finding information about the specific region you’re visiting also makes a difference.”

Check your insurance
No matter where you go, it’s good to know what your medical insurance will cover while you’re out of the country, or even out of state, by contacting your provider before departing. A travel clinic expert can help patients decide the
type of supplemental coverage they need, if any.

There are a number of additional health risks that can occur, whether your destination is exotic or close to home.

When in transit, especially on an airplane, Prince recommends getting up and walking in the aisle every two to three hours at a minimum. Drink enough so that you are going to the restroom every three hours.

“Blood clots during long airline flights can occur when you sit for long periods of time and can happen in any class of seats,” Prince says. “They also are a risk during long car rides.”

Traveling with children
Prince says parents shouldn’t hesitate to travel with kids on short to medium length trips, as long as they are well-prepared.

“Have enough stuff to amuse them, such as books, small soft toys, or a DVD player, and doses of any medication they might need,” Prince says. “Check with the child’s pediatrician if he or she is sick right before leaving on a trip.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site is a useful tool for finding health information relating to travel. Visit www.cdc.gov/travel.

To make an appointment at the UK HealthCare Travel Clinic, call (859) 257-5150.

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