With the summer travel season in full flight, UCLA Health experts are offering health tips, travel vaccines and consultations to ensure your dream vacation does not become a travel health nightmare.
“There are simple precautions you can take to prevent unnecessary suffering when traveling,” advises Jennifer Yeung, MD, a UCLA internal medicine and pediatric specialist at the UCLA Health Brentwood medical practice.
Dr. Yeung suggests visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel website to determine if any vaccines or malaria pills are necessary for your destination when traveling outside the U.S.
Recent measles outbreaks have prompted the CDC to recommend that people traveling internationally get their titers checked to verify immunity or a measles booster, she adds. Infants traveling outside the U.S. also can get an early measles vaccination, but not until they are at least 6 months old.
“Many of our UCLA Health offices offer travel-consultation appointments and vaccinations,” Dr. Yeung says. “Ideally, appointments should be scheduled one month before your trip to ensure adequate immunity.”
Stay healthy in flight
“Studies show that bacteria thrive on an airplane’s pull-down trays, armrests and bathroom door handles,” says Anuradha Seshadri, MD, internal medicine and pediatric specialist at the UCLA Health Century City medical office. “Bring sanitizing wipes to use on these surfaces after you find your seat and take along a small container of hand gel to use periodically.”
Additionally, Dr. Seshadri recommends getting up and walking about the cabin at least once every two hours during longer flights to prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. You also should consider wearing compression socks to reduce your risk and limiting caffeinated and alcoholic beverages because they can cause dehydration.
When traveling to a foreign country, Dr. Yeung recommends avoiding raw foods, such as uncooked vegetables and peeled fruit, as well as unpasteurized dairy products. “Don’t eat foods left out in the sun because heat promotes the growth of bacteria,” she explains. “And stick to bottled water, if possible, in certain destinations where the water supply may be unsafe for visitors.”
Prevent motion sickness
“If you are prone to queasiness while traveling by cruise ship, train or car, certain over-the-counter medications or a prescription patch can help,” says Dr. Seshadri. When booking a cruise ship cabin, she adds, request a room with a window located mid-ship, where you are less likely to feel its rocking motion.
Be safe from Zika
This mosquito-borne virus increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects in pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant. To thwart mosquitos, use a repellant that contains DEET and wear long pants and shirts.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, repellants with 10 to 30-percent DEET are safe and effective for children older than two months when used per directions on product labels.
“Zika is still very present in many parts of the world,” Dr. Yeung says, with cases reported in Texas, Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean islands, the Bahamas, Africa and Central and South America. Before traveling, check the CDCP website for an updated list of affected areas.
Pack wisely, be prepared
Never put prescription medicines in your checked luggage. “If your luggage gets lost, it can take several days for the airlines to locate it or for your prescription to get refilled,” explains Dr. Seshadri. “It’s always best to keep medications in your carry-on bags.”
Both physicians recommend bringing an emergency medical kit stocked with bandages, pain relievers, medication for diarrhea, nausea and allergies, and creams for rashes, mosquito bites and sunburn.
For more information about the UCLA Health medical practices near you, visit www.uclahealth.org.