9 health tips for your vacation: UC family doctor has pre-travel advice for avoiding sickness

CINCINNATI - You may have planned your summer vacation itinerary and have packing checklist in place, but have you planned to stay healthy while away from home?

Dr. Kathleen Downey, at the UC College of Medicine and a UC Health primary care physician in Wyoming, knows that illness doesn't take a break. 

"Vacation is meant to be a fun time to get away from our responsibilities and just enjoy life, but we can't always prevent sickness," Downey said. "Take the normal precautions to avoid general sickness—eating right, getting plenty of sleep and washing your hands—before and during your trip and if you do get sick while away, take the proper action to remedy the problem before it worsens."

We turned Dr. Downey's advice into 9 health tips for your vacation:

1. "Patients should be sure to have a copy of the medicines they are taking as well as any allergies they have and their past medical history which can all be obtained by putting in a call to their doctor's office before leaving," Downey said. She also suggests keeping one to two days' worth of regular medications with you, in case your luggage gets lost.

2. Remember pharmacists are great resources for over-the-counter remedies and for conditions you might encounter when traveling.

3. Put together and carry a first aid kit with you for fast access to items you may need like pain killers, cough drops or Band-Aids. 

4. Be sure to move your legs or get up and walk around every two hours to avoid possible blood clots which could occur in your legs during long plane or car rides.

5. A decongestant will often help reduce ear pain experienced because of changing pressure in an airplane. Sucking on a candy, swallowing or holding your nose and blowing are also safe and effective ways to alleviate this.

6. Drink plenty of water to avoid both dehydration and constipation during travel.

7. To avoid jet lag, try to copy the sleep pattern of the place where you'll be waking up.

8. Ask your doctor for any special medications you may need for your trip; for example, patches for sea sickness if you are taking a cruise or a sedative if you are uncomfortable flying.

9. Get the vaccines you need at least a month before you travel, as they may take time to become effective.

More resources before you go

The U.S. State Department provides information for people planning to travel overseas.

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