By DR. AMIT ARWINDEKAR
Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare Global
With spring break coming up soon, many California residents may be planning a getaway to visit with family and friends in other parts of the country or to explore an international destination.
While spring-time travel can be a chance to reconnect with loved ones or visit someplace new, it can also present challenges. Any number of factors can lead to packed airports, and bad weather can cause annoying delays and cancellations. What’s more, nearly one in 10 international passengers end up requiring medical attention while traveling abroad. It all highlights the importance of pre-travel preparation.
To help minimize potential stress and reduce the risk of health-related issues while away from home, here are five tips to think about.
Anticipate potential health issues. Consider a wellness checkup with a primary care doctor before departure to talk about travel plans, including the possible need for vaccinations. Packing a portable health kit may also prove helpful, so consider including items such as anti-inflammatory pain relievers, first-aid supplies, earplugs, sunscreen and sunburn relief, motion-sickness remedies and insect repellents.
Refill medications. Before any trip, it is a good idea to refill medications and pack extra doses in case of travel delays. Some pharmacies may have limited hours during peak holidays, which could make a refill more difficult. When traveling by airplane, always pack medication in carry-on luggage to help ensure access. For international travel, be sure to check prescription drug restrictions for each country to help avoid the risk of medications being confiscated upon arrival.
Reduce jet lag. People taking to the air can face the possibility of jet lag. To help avoid this, get lots of rest before a trip, and drink plenty of water before, during and after flights to reduce the dehydrating effects of cabin air. Then, make a point to get plenty of sunlight during the day, which can help to reset the body’s internal clock and promote better rest at night. Proper sleep can help strengthen the immune system, better regulate appetite and aid in recovery from injury.
Stay active. Studies have shown that exercise is a great choice for helping to reduce stress and improve mood. Incorporating physical activity into sightseeing is one strategy for staying active, as many places offer walking or bike tours that can be relatively affordable, informative and fun. Using a fitness app may also help, providing access to thousands of workouts, from high-intensity interval training to yoga, and meditation too.
Get protection. Prior to traveling, take time to review your health insurance plan and confirm what it covers. Some health plans only offer network access to local health care professionals, and most insurance policies — including original Medicare — do not extend overseas or across the border. For additional protection abroad, travel medical plans may cover the cost of medical care and offer additional services. These may include foreign-language translation, direction to appropriate facilities or help with evacuation to other facilities and coordinated care with local health providers.
Whether traveling for work or leisure, considering these tips can help avoid health issues, promote well-being and protect against unexpected complications.