The holiday season is a wonderful time to visit loved ones or embark on a much-needed vacation. Regardless of whether you’re seeking a winter wonderland or fleeing frosty temperatures, these holiday travel tips will help ensure a healthy and safe trip.
Before You Travel
1. Research Your Destination
It’s important to investigate the health risks at your destination. Visit the CDC’s destination pages to learn about necessary vaccines, medicines, and potential health hazards.
2. Update Your Vaccinations
Routine vaccinations protect against infectious diseases like measles, which can spread rapidly among unvaccinated groups. Some diseases are more prevalent in countries outside the United States. Ensure you’re up to date with necessary vaccines for your destination.
3. COVID-19 and Flu Vaccines
CDC recommends receiving a flu vaccine before the end of October in the United States and staying current with COVID-19 vaccines.
4. Pack a Travel Health Kit
Prepare a well-stocked travel health kit with prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, and other essential items. It’s crucial to take enough supplies to last your journey, plus additional items in case of delays. Your kit may also include a mask, insect repellent, sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher), aloe, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, water disinfection tablets, and your health insurance card.
During Your Trip
5. Prioritize Road Safety
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among healthy travelers. Always wear a seat belt and ensure children are in car seats. Be cautious when crossing the street, especially in countries with left-hand traffic. Stay vigilant to maintain safety on the roads.
6. Protect Your Skin
Sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher is crucial while traveling. Sunburns can occur even on cloudy or cold days. The highest risk of UV exposure occurs during summer months, near the equator, at high altitudes, or between 10 am and 4 pm.
7. Dress Appropriately for the Weather
When traveling in cold weather or climates, opt for warm clothing in various loose layers.
8. Stay Cool in Warm Weather
In hot climates, wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored clothing. The likelihood of experiencing heat-related illnesses depends on your destination, activities, hydration level, and age. Learn how to prevent and treat heat-related illnesses.
9. Prevent Bug Bites
Bug bites can spread diseases like malaria, yellow fever, Zika, dengue, chikungunya, and Lyme. Use insect repellent and follow other preventative measures, especially during warm weather.
Heat-Related Illness Prevention
Heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, can affect travelers of all ages. The risk increases with physical activity in high temperatures. Take the following precautions to safeguard yourself and your loved ones:
- Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids.
- Apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and reapply as directed.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses, and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Schedule outdoor activities during cooler times of the day.
- Rest frequently in the shade when outside.
- Gradually acclimate to hot temperatures before engaging in strenuous activities.
Recognizing and Responding to Heat-Related Illnesses
It’s vital to know how to identify and treat heat-related illnesses. While some conditions, like heat cramps and heat rash, can be alleviated by leaving the heat and rehydrating, others may be more serious.
Heat exhaustion is a mild heat-related illness that occurs in hot temperatures, particularly when not drinking enough water or non-alcoholic fluids. Elderly individuals, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in the heat are at a heightened risk.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Excessive thirst
- Profuse sweating
- Dizziness or confusion
If you or a travel companion exhibit these symptoms, immediately move to a cooler environment and drink non-alcoholic beverages, such as water or sports drinks with electrolytes.
Untreated heat exhaustion can progress into heat stroke, a severe heat-related illness. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises rapidly, and the body cannot cool itself down.
Early signs of heat stroke resemble those of heat exhaustion but can worsen with:
- Absence of sweating
- Body temperature exceeding 106°F within 10-15 minutes
- Loss of consciousness
Heat stroke is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention. It can result in death or permanent disability if not promptly addressed.
By following these holiday travel tips and staying prepared, you can make the most of your trip while keeping your health and safety a top priority. Enjoy your travels and stay well!