Everyone needs a break. Here’s how to prepare so your health is protected
while on a summer trip.
Vacations are important—to relax and refresh, disconnect from devices
and reconnect with family. Yet a recent study reported in The Wall Street
Journal found that American workers are choosing to not take an average
of five vacation days per year. As anyone who has missed vacation time
knows, the result can be work burnout and chronic stress—which is
associated with high blood pressure, weakened immune system, insomnia,
depression and anxiety.
So take your vacation. And to ensure that all goes well, plan ahead to
make sure your health is covered while you’re away from home.
If you’re travelling to another country, check out the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention’s travel site (cdc.gov/travel) for
an extensive list of countries that require visitors to be vaccinated
for certain diseases. This site also provides plenty of country-specific
other health tips, such as taking antimalarial medication, being extra
watchful about food and water cleanliness and avoiding areas with mosquitos.
But if you’re traveling within the United States, vacation preparation
“Take into consideration the health of all family members,” suggests
Christian Lising, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. “Pack extra medications like Benadryl or Claritin for allergies
and an inhaler for those with asthma. Also consider aspirin, Motrin, anti-nausea
medication and eye drops for anyone who wears contacts.”
Discuss with your doctor if you need other prescription medications if
you are prone to infections. And if you’re planning on doing a lot
of walking or hiking, pack thick bandages in case of blisters, and calamine
lotion to treat bug bites or poison ivy rashes.
Of course, a trip to New York City requires different items than a camping
adventure, where you could be far away from the nearest store or emergency room.
“I recently took my son’s Boy Scout group camping, and brought
a complete first aid backpack, with tons of bandages, suture kits, casts,
splints and meds,” says Dr. Lising, who is a UC Irvine School of
Medicine graduate. “It’s all about being prepared.”
And consider buying short-term travelers insurance before you head out
on vacation, he says, to make sure you’re covered for doctor and
ER visits as well as costs for surgery, tests, medications and a hospital
stay. The travel guide book company Lonely Planet offers tips for finding
travel health insurance on its website, lonelyplanet.com. Injuries involving
some high-risk sports, for instance, might not be covered by travel health
insurance, according to the website.
Who and when to call?
Once you’ve planned your trip, identify the nearest emergency rooms
on your route, and bring your doctor’s contact information with
you, in case you or a family member falls ill while away, suggests Dr. Lising.
How do you know when to reach out for medical help (aside from an obvious
injury)? “If something doesn’t look right, go to a doctor
or ER right away rather than wait,” says Dr. Lising.
Most medical groups arrange for doctors to cover each other in case your
own doctor is unavailable. “We all cover each other in our group,”
says Dr. Lising. Many provide a hotline staffed by nurses who field calls
first then refer them to appropriate doctors when necessary. Talk to your
doctor before you leave—he or she might prefer to communicate with
patients via email.
Doctors need vacations too
Keep in mind that doctors need to take time off too, so don’t be
surprised if you can’t connect with your own personal physician
in case of a vacation health emergency. And remember that when your doctor
does return from vacation, he or she may need to attend a heavy load of
patients who’ve been waiting to see them.
A lot of people are eager for that personal contact with their doctors,
which naturally takes time, and can cause inevitable delays. If your doctor
is a few minutes late for your appointment, it might be that he or she
is giving another patient needed time. “One patient was telling
me about his young son who had just passed away,” says Dr. Lising,
“so I wasn’t going to tell him that he only had fifteen minutes
talk to me.”
Learn more about
Dr. Lising. Learn more about
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
(This story originally appeared in OC Catholic, August, 2015)