Travelling in Good Health
Every year around this time, Atlantic Canadians fill airplanes bound for tropical climes to get a break from eastern Canada's dreary spring weather. While most of them enjoy happy and healthy vacations, some suffer illnesses and physical discomfort - often due to lack of preparation and information.
Always thoroughly research the country you plan to visit, preferably months before your departure. Look for information about the climate, food, water supply, flora and fauna, to anticipate potential dangers; and verify the quality and location of local medical facilities. Being prepared for a holiday health crisis could prevent your relaxing getaway from becoming a stressful nightmare. Here are some tips to help you plan:
Seek medical advice in advance. If you're travelling to an area where malaria exists, ask your doctor about anti-malarial medication. Depending on where youre travelling, your doctor may also recommend immunizations against a variety of diseases, including meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, Hepatitis B and other serious illnesses.
Get your kids checked by a doctor. If young children will be coming along for the trip, its a good idea to visit with the doctor first. Something as simple as the start of an ear infection could lead to pain and discomfort (caused by the changes in altitude during a flight) that could last for days.
Bring medicines with you. If you have any pre-existing conditions for which you take prescription drugs, make sure you pack enough to last throughout your trip (and allow for a few extra doses in case you're delayed getting home). It's wise to bring along over-the-counter drugs that treat diarrhea, since there may be water-borne parasites and bacteria in the local water at your vacation destination. In addition, ask your doctor if she or he recommends that you bring an antibiotic for self-treatment of a bacterial infection.
Consume cautiously. In many developing countries, water systems are often not treated to the extent they are in Canada. As a result, tourists vacationing in less developed countries often experience diarrhea after drinking local water or eating food prepared with the water. A good rule of thumb is to drink only bottled water (never local water) while on vacation. And be sure your food has been cooked well prior to eating it (this should kill any contaminants). If youd like to sample the fresh fruit, peel it first and wash it yourself with bottled water. Brush your teeth using bottled water as well.
Minimize jet lag. After travelling across time zones, you may find it difficult to adjust your natural sleep rhythms to the current time at your destination. To minimize this effect, you may find it useful to gradually turn your watch back (or ahead) in the days leading up to your departure. When you arrive, you won't be as out of sync. If you're due to arrive at your destination in the morning, sleep on the plane so you'll be ready to start the day. If you're due to arrive at night, avoid caffeinated beverages that will keep you awake. Adopt the local time by eating meals at appropriate hours and get lots of sunlight during the day.
Prevent mosquito bites. Some diseases, including malaria (found in parts of Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other popular travel destinations), are transmitted through a simple mosquito bite. Be sure to pack a good insect repellent and apply it often.
Opt for the ocean. Sometimes the fresh, slow-moving water in lakes and rivers contains parasites that cause schistosomiasis, a chronic illness that can cause severe liver and intestinal damage. Avoid this by taking a dip in the ocean instead.
Wear sandals on the beach. Frolicking barefoot in the sand may seem like an idyllic holiday pursuit, however, sharp pebbles and shells, corals and even broken glass could cut you or become embedded in your foot.
Report sickness to your doctor. If you develop an illness in the days, weeks or months following your vacation, visit your doctor and explain where you were travelling. This could not only save you a great deal of suffering, it could help prevent the illness from spreading to those around you.