University Hospitals Case Medical Center Doctors Offer Tips to Stay Healthy on Vacation

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A little planning can go a long way on your next trip.

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Whether it’s visiting top hot spot destinations or exploring exotic reaches unknown, traveling is on many people’s to-do lists this summer. Although it has been said that a dose of adventure is good for you, taking appropriate precautions both before and during travel can protect you from serious illness and injury.

Those precautions begin before you ever board a plane. Three to four weeks before departure, travelers going anywhere outside the U.S., Western Europe and Canada should make an appointment to see a doctor who specializes in travel medicine, recommends Keith Armitage, MD, Infectious Disease specialist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Go to your appointment prepared with your medical history and a detailed itinerary so that your doctor can not only surmise the need for certain immunizations, but also counsel you on the possibilities of illness caused by dramatic altitude change or insect bites, for example.

“We break down pretravel consultations into three standard areas: immunizations, malaria, and food and water precautions,” Dr. Armitage says.

Steps to Take
One of the greatest risks to travelers visiting foreign lands is one we’re often embarrassed to talk about: diarrhea. Dr. Armitage says that the potentially dangerous condition can be avoided by taking special care with what you eat and drink.

“The basic principle is to drink bottled water and other prepackaged drinks and to not eat anything uncooked,” he says.

Beyond illness, though, the act of traveling itself can take a toll on the body. Lugging weeks’ worth of clothes in heavy luggage, sitting for hours on a flight and sleeping in an unfamiliar bed can wreak havoc on necks and backs and detract from the fun of a trip.

Prevention is really the best way to protect yourself from injury when you’re on the road, says Christopher Furey, MD, an orthopaedic spine surgeon at UH Case Medical Center, Department of Orthopaedics and Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

“The emphasis is on staying in good health. Aerobic exercise, maintaining a good weight, and not smoking will help promote good spine health,” he says.

Dr. Furey also says to make sure you are carrying luggage that is appropriately weighted and balanced, that you use good technique, such as bending at the knees, when lifting, and to ask a porter if you need help.

An over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication and rest will help aches and pains, but if pain is severe, Dr. Furey says to see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure you can enjoy the rest of the trip and many more trips to come.

Packing Tips

  • Pack all prescription and over-the-counter medications in your carry-on luggage.
  • Carry with you copies of the prescriptions for medications you’re taking.
  • Take a first-aid kit for minor illnesses and injuries.
  • Don’t forget your insurance card and contact information for your primary care doctor.

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