Travel Tip Tuesday – Lost on Vacation

Traveling can be disorienting- new environment, different language, changing hotels frequently, along with fatigue and jet lag. If you are traveling with a group, you may not be paying as close attention to where you are or where you are staying.  You need to know how to reconnect if you get separated from your group.

Got a cell phone? Take a picture of your hotel.  You can show this to someone to help you find your way back, even if you don’t speak the language. If they have a business card or match book, take one and keep it with you.

Make a plan.  Decide where you will meet, if you get separated each day. Know where your group is headed next.   Wear a watch to keep track of the time. Ask your tour guide the best way to contact them if you get separated from the gang. Your bus may not pick you up where you got dropped off.

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Heat Exhaustion – Travel Tip Tuesday

You dont have to travel  far to  feel too hot this summer. Know what to do when you get too hot and how to get cooled off. Early action can prevent heat exhaution from progressing to heat stroke. And drink, drink, drink (non-alchololic beverages, that is).

Travel Tip Tuesday

Cell phones can be very handy when you travel. They can act as a flashlight. You can take a photo of your hotel and if you can’t communicate with your cabby, show him a picture. You can take a photo of important things, like your passport, itinerary , immunization record, medical history, medication list, phone numbers of your credit card companies international line to report stolen or lost cards, and the number of your travel health insurance company.

Hey, you can even make phone calls!

Favorite Foto Friday- Painful Poppy Pictures

Painful poppy pictures

The kindness of strangers.

It’s easy to get injured when you travel, especially when you are taking a photo and wearing sandals on an uneven unpaved road and keep backing up to get the right angle. I was bleeding and found out later I broke a toe. In the next town, while I cleaned myself up, the waiter brought me a cold can of Coke, for my foot and a glass of wine for my pain. It was 9 am and I was grateful for both.  Where was I?

Bugs and Bowels

No one likes having diarrhea or vomiting but it can be really miserable when you are far from home. Despite following food and water precautions, you might still get sick when you travel especially to Mexico and under developed countries.

If you are having significant diarrhea without vomiting and you have a prescription for an antibiotic such as ciprofloxin or azithromycin, start it. You may feel much better after one dose.  Prescriptions such as these are given at your pre travel consultation.  (Didn’t go to a travel clinic before your trip? Don’t make that mistake again.)

If you are vomiting, start with about a tablespoon of bottled water, tea, soda, or juice every 10 -15 minutes.  If that doesn’t stay down, try a teaspoon every 10 minutes. If you have access to ice made with bottled water, suck on some ice chips. Some fluid can get absorbed through your mouth and feels good. If you have oral rehydration solution, mix that with bottled water to replace electrolytes. Avoid sports drinks as they are designed to replace fluids lost from perspiration not the stomach tract. Gradually add fluids and food as you feel better. If you just have water, add some foods with  salt such as potato chips or pretzels.

The blue areas indicate countries with high risk of traveler’s diarrhea.

Staying hydrated is very important , especially in a hot humid climate. If you have severe abdominal pain, a fever, or can’t hold anything down, develop blood in your stools, get very thirsty and continue to feel worse, seek health care.

Be sure to plan ahead for treating vomiting and diarrhea when away by bringing a prescription for an antibiotic, a thermometer, and oral rehydration salt packets.

Dirty Needles?

Traveling in under developed countries poses some unique challenges. What if I get cut and need stitches? What if I have a dental emergency? Get diarrhea so bad I need IV rehydration? Will they have properly sterilized equipment?

You can purchase syringe and suture kits to take with you. These are not do it yourself kits. They are to be given to a trained health care provider to use on you in such emergencies.

Typically, these kits contain needles, suture materials, IV catheters, gloves and antiviral and antibacterial wipes to close wounds and start IV’s. They can be used to administer anesthetics for emergency dental procedures, too.

To help with going through customs,  get a note from your travel clinic provider that states that these items are being used for personal use only. One kit from Adventure Medical Kits has declaratory statements about use printed on the outside in 8 different languages.

Many travel clinics, including Travel Health of New Hampshire, have these kits available for purchase. Hopefully you will never need to use such a kit,  but in countries where blood borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis are common, it is reassuring to know that if you the equipment used on you is definitely sterile.

Choosing a Travel Clinic

The American Travel Health Nurses Association (ATHNA) offers these guidelines for consumers to help them choose a travel clinic.

1. Look for a clinic that offers customized care. Your pre-travel visit should include an in-person assessment and focus on an individualized plan specific to your health history, destination, and potential activities.

2. Ask about counseling to reduce the non-vaccine preventable risks of travel. Pre-travel preparation is more than just immunizations. Your visit should include sufficient time to address issues such as malaria, altitude illness, dengue, jet lag, and traveler’s diarrhea.

3. Ask about clinic charges and payment. Charges vary widely and many travel health costs are not reimbursed by health insurance. Costs for vaccines continue to rise. Know that some clinics work on a commission basis and providers receive a percentage of the total bill. Be aware of potential conflicts of interest.

4. Inquire about the training and experience of your provider. Quality pre-travel care is offered by many health professionals, including MDs, NPs, RNs, PAs and pharmacists. However, there are few national standards for entry into practice. While membership in a professional organization, such as ISTM, ASTMH, and ATHNA, is no guarantee, it may suggest a larger commitment to the specialty.

5. Think about finding a clinic early, even before you make final payment for your trip. While most travelers need only one visit to prepare for their journey, others may require multiple visits. Ideally, you should start 4 to 6 weeks ahead of departure. However, it is never too late to receive pre-travel care. Travelers seen just hours before a flight can still reduce important travel risks.