Summer has finally come and for many in Washington, that means getting out of town for a relaxing vacation. According to Airlines for America, air travel is expected to hit its highest level in six years this summer, with about 210 million passengers expected fly U.S. airlines between June 1 and August 31. That includes nearly 30 million travelers on international flights.
With travel comes planning, including what we want to wear, which attractions to visit and how long we'll be gone. But what people often neglect to consider when planning their vacation is their health. Unfortunately, mishaps can happen while in a different city, state or even country, and it is important to be prepared.
Here are five tips to make sure your summer vacation goes off without a health-related hitch:
1.) Think ahead: If you have chronic health issues, make sure you get a checkup before you leave and let your physician know where you are planning to travel. Before you go, make sure you have enough medication to last the whole trip or plan where you can go to refill your prescription. The U.S. State Department recommends carrying a letter from your physician describing any medical condition and any prescription medications, including the label name of any prescribed drugs. And don't forget to pack your medication in your carry-on luggage.
2.) Consider destination-specific health risks: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you get any disease-specific vaccines, medications or medical advice for international travel at least four to six weeks in advance of your trip. Doing so allows any vaccines you may need to have time to take effect (and some vaccines require more than one dose). If you are visiting several countries or countries with a variety of health risks, or if you have a pre-existing health condition, you may need to see a clinician who specializes in travel medicine. To find a local care provider who can help you, visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/find-clinic.
3.) Download health apps: Mobile health apps for smartphones and tablets are one of the fastest-growing segments of app development, giving people better access to health care information when they're on the go. Mobile apps, such as UnitedHealthcare's Health4Me app, make it easier to contact a registered nurse, download your insurance ID card and locate nearby physicians or emergency rooms.
4.) Check your insurance coverage: If you are traveling overseas, check to see if your insurance is valid where you are going. Contact your health insurance company and check your benefit documents. Many do offer some coverage, but there may be limitations based on your location or the type of medical care received. You may want to consider getting supplemental traveler's medical coverage - policies that can cover a variety of services including emergency care, which might require air evacuation.
5.) Pack a travel health kit: In addition to any prescription medications, make sure to pack a first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic, pain reliever/anti-inflammatories, motion sickness medication and bug repellent.
Summer vacations should be about making great memories with your family and friends. In order to really enjoy your trip, err on the side of caution and make sure your health is protected before you leave.