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Healthy Travel

Ahhh, vacation. Whether it’s a week at the beach, a whirlwind tour of Europe, or time spent at home relaxing, vacationing is good for the mind and the body. There’s even some scientific backing for the notion that regular vacations are good for your health. At least two large studies suggest that people who get away every so often live longer and are less likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t.

But that’s not to say that vacations can’t be stressful, or even the cause of medical problems on occasion. In this guide, you’ll find the information you’ll need to make sure your vacation is a healthful one, from the plane ride there to your final meal of the trip.

Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation Howard Lewine, M.D., Chief Medical Editor, Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. 38 pages. (2013)

  • Safe and healthy travels
  • Traveling with special needs
  • Jitters, critters and other travel concerns
  • Deep-vein thrombosis
  • Air quality and pressure
  • Avoiding and treating sunburn
  • When the sea bites back
  • Mosquito-borne illnesses
  • Cruises: Avoiding illness on ships
  • Healthy heights: Preventing altitude sickness
  • Healthy lifestyles don’t take vacation
  • Tips for fitting exercise into your vacation
  • How to eat healthfully while traveling
  • Prescription and over-the-counter drugs in foreign countries
  • Returning home
  • Resources

Traveler’s health kit

Use this list as a starting point for keeping track of the health-related
items you should remember to pack. Of course, feel free to write in items
specific to your situation. And always talk to a doctor or pharmacist before
taking any medication, even an over-the-counter drug.

Personal prescription medications
Make sure to take at least a week’s supply in your carry-on (in case luggage
is lost); pack the rest in your checked bags.

Optional prescription medications
Consider asking your doctor about traveling with one or more of these
prescription medications:
  • antimalarial medications, if malaria is a problem in the country you’ll be visiting
  • antibiotics for self-treatment of moderate to severe diarrhea.
Non-prescription medications
  • antidiarrheal medication (such as bismuth subsalicylate, loperamide) and other medications for gastrointestinal problems, such as a mild laxative and an antacid antihistamine and 1% hydrocortisone cream for mild allergic reactions. If you or a traveling companion has a history of severe allergic reaction, bring an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g., EpiPen)
  • medications for cold symptoms, including a decongestant and throat lozenges
  • motion sickness medication
  • acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or other medication for pain relief or fever reduction
  • antifungal and antibacterial ointments or creams
  • lubricating eye drops (Natural Tears, others)
  • basic first-aid items (adhesive bandages, gauze, elastic bandage, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, cotton-tipped applicators) and a firstaid book or quick-reference instructions.
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