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Tips for a Happy and Safe Vacation

The summer holidays are a time to have fun. They also present a special occasion for family and friends to come together.

Perhaps at no other time are the holidays such a welcome and called for distraction from the pressures brought on by daily life stresses than at the present.

But the summer vacation could quickly lose its meaning and appeal once vacationers begin to fall unnecessarily ill or fall victim to accidents that can be easily avoided.

The need to keep healthy and safe during the holidays is, therefore, paramount for individuals planning their summer vacation. This is particularly critical when the holidays involve taking a trip to another country.

According to Meridith Sonnett MD, the director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York Presbyterian, an individual should ensure that all their immunizations are up to date, prior to travelling to another country.

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She further explained to that one should find out whether there are any special health alerts or endemic illnesses in the area to which they are travelling.

“If there are, you need to check with your physician or local department of health to see if there are special medications or immunizations you need to receive prior to your departure,” she says.

Health Insurance & Vaccines

It is of utmost importance that individuals on medication take sufficient amounts of necessary medication when travelling.

In these cases, Sonnet advises that medication should be taken in its original packaging.

“You may want to ask your physician, if feasible, to give you an extra prescription should you lose your medications,” says Sonnet who is also an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons.

If you have an underlying medical condition, it is important to obtain a summary of the condition from your physician and bring it with you in case of an emergency while on holiday.

“If you need to go to a hospital when on vacation it is important to provide all the necessary medical information to the physicians caring for you,” explains Sonnet.

There are instances when medications are in short supply. In most instances however, medications for allergy reactions as well as antibiotic ointments among others are simply hard to find.

It is therefore advisable that people take these types of medications with them whenever travelling to another country for the holidays.

Equally important is that you check your health insurance policy before travelling. Sonnett explains that you should find out whether you are covered by your health insurance and you should take a copy of your insurance card with you on your trip.

If you don’t have health insurance Sonnett says you should consider purchasing travel health insurance.

Other ConcernsVacation

Certain safety and health factors such as safe drinking water and endemic diseases may not be an issue in your home country but this doesn’t mean that such considerations should be ignored when travelling to another country.

“Folks should know about the safety of the drinking water and use bottled water when in doubt,” advises Sonnet.

Many countries in the world may be endemic for certain diseases such as Malaria.

According to Sonnett, it is wise to begin anti-malarial medications when travelling to such countries based on the advice given by your physician.

Dr. Elizabeth Juma, the head of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in Kenya agrees with Sonnet.

She says that tourists coming from non-malaria areas are particularly susceptible to severe forms of malaria compared to the locals.

As such NMCP have recommended steps to be taken by tourists to avoid contracting malaria. Juma advises those visiting malaria endemic regions to “sleep under insecticide treated nets.”

Personal protection against mosquito bites, explains Juma, involve practical common sense measures.

This includes putting on long sleeved shirts and trousers, as well as applying insect repellents. She adds that prophylaxis for malaria is also advised.

“Prophylaxis for malaria with recommended medicines like Malarone, which is taken daily or Mefloquine, to be taken weekly is strongly advised,” says Juma.

She adds that these medicines should be prescribed by competent medical practitioners as some of them have side effects.

VacationAnother problem facing people travelling to other countries for summer is the possibility of experiencing sunburn.

The use of sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection is strongly recommended (Centre for Disease Control).

Sonnett explains that children are especially vulnerable as they often engage in water activities all day long and often forget to reapply sunscreen.

“Additionally the water reflects the sun and one is always at greater risk of sunburn when doing lots of water activities,” she says.

Many people returning home from vacation may find themselves falling ill well after they return home from their summer vacation. Some may even develop health problems weeks or possibly months after the vacation has ended.

This can be attributed to the fact that the individual may have been infected with a pathogen which remains in its incubation period and only manifests itself after that person returns.

It’s therefore important and advisable to keep track of your travel history in the last six months.

By following these simple tips and taking the right precautions you will hopefully have a safe and healthy summer vacation with nothing to worry about other than what to pack!

This article is from Science’s archive and we’ve originally published it on an earlier date.