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Important Tips for Healthy Travel

Although health problems are uncommon during air travel, it is wise to practice good health and safety habits during your trip.

Medications: Be sure to bring enough of all necessary medicines in your carry-on luggage. Ask your physician whether you should alter dosages if your sleeping, eating and activity patterns will change during your trip. Bring extra medicine with you in case your return trip is delayed. If medicine quantities don’t fit the TSA 3-1-1 liquids regulations, bring explanatory information from your physician with you.

Medical Alerts: If you have diabetes or epilepsy, carry a notification and identification card (such as the “Diabetes Alert Card” from the American Diabetes Association). Have the name and phone number of your doctor with you in case of an emergency. Remember to bring along the names and dosages of all of your medicines.

Before Your Trip:

  • Make sure your immunizations are current. If traveling abroad, have an up-to-date copy of your immunization record.
  • If possible, delay your trip if you’re not feeling well, especially if there is a risk of contagion.
  • If you’re prone to air sickness, ask for a window seat over the wing and bring a nausea reducing medication.
  • If you have any health questions, or if you suffer from a chronic ailment, motion sickness, or fear of flying, ask for advice from your physician.
  • Negative stress can be harmful. Reduce stress by allowing plenty of time to check in and reach your departure gate.
  • Always carry your medication with you—never pack it in baggage that you’re planning to check.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing and shoes for your flight.

During Your Trip:

  • Eat lightly during your flight.
  • Stay hydrated with non-alcoholic. Non-caffeinated beverages while you fly.
  • Leave room under the seat in front of you so that you can stretch your legs.
  • If conditions permit, try to stand up and walk around the cabin every once in a while.
  • The air in airplanes has reduced moisture content, so drink nonalcoholic, decaffeinated beverages and water to avoid dehydration. Saline sprays and skin lotions can also be helpful.

At Your Destination:

  • Never purchase and/or use local medications unless you’re familiar with them or are directed to do so by your physician.
  • Wear sun block, sunglasses and appropriate clothing in the tropics and at high altitudes.
  • Drinking a lot of water best minimizes altitude sickness at upper elevations.

Combating Jet Lag:

  • Get plenty of sleep before you leave and rest during your journey.
  • Don’t drink a lot of alcohol.
  • Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals.
  • Avoid overeating or binging.
  • Exercise as much as you can on your trip. Walking is always good.
  • Use sleep medicines for only a few days or as directed by your physician.
  • Acclimate to new time zones by going along with the local meal and bedtime schedules.

What to do about pain in the ears during air travel: If your ears hurt when you fly, try taking a decongestant medicine (such as pseudoephedrine) before you get on the plane. Drink plenty of liquids in small sips, swallowing often. Chew gum during the flight. Babies can be soothed by sucking on bottles or a pacifier during the flight.

Additional thoughts: It can not be overemphasized enough that you should walk periodically during your flight (unless directed otherwise by the flight crew.) Drink water! Stretch your calf muscles, shoulders, arms, etc using isometric exercise while you’re sitting. Wear comfortable shoes and support stockings, if necessary.

Traveling with oxygen: It is best to alert the airlines, in advance, that you will need to travel with oxygen. The airline can normally provide oxygen for you for a fee. Federal air regulations don’t allow you to carry your own oxygen unit on a plane. Make arrangements ahead of time for oxygen to be waiting for you at your intermediate and final destinations.

Special Needs: You can arrange for special meals or a wheelchair by calling your airline ahead of time.

Special Precautions: It’s dangerous to fly immediately after scuba diving. You’ll need to wait 12 to 24 hours after diving. Ask your doctor or diving authorities for guidelines on flying after scuba diving.

Be Smart Tips While You Travel Abroad

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available and your hands are not visibly dirty, use alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol) to clean your hands.
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks from sources you trust. Do not drink tap water or fountain drinks, or eat ice cubes.
  • Only eat food that has been fully cooked or fruits and vegetables that have been washed and peeled by you. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • If you might be bitten by insects (like mosquitoes or ticks) use insect repellent (bug spray) with 30-50% DEET. The label on the container will tell you the DEET content.
  • Make sure you know how to protect yourself from injury while you travel. Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of injury deaths in travelers. Swimming-related accidents are also a major cause of injury among travelers.
  • Avoid poultry farms, bird markets, and other places where live poultry is raised or kept.
  • Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague).