When we get ready to travel, we plan our itinerary and pack all of the necessities, but do we create a plan for our health? As a doctor with extensive experience in travel medicine, I am often asked for tips for healthy travel and below are my top recommendations:
1. Know when NOT to fly. A variety of conditions make air travel unsafe. For example, you should not fly if you’ve recently had surgery, a stroke, heart attack, or an injury to the eye, head or stomach. Nor should you fly with a severe ear or sinus infection.
2. Avoid blood clots. For certain people – such as smokers, the obese, the elderly, those with cancer, and those with limited mobility – traveling on long flights increases the risk of developing a blood clot in a leg vein which can be lethal. To decrease your risk, try to get up and walk occasionally. While seated, stretch and exercise your calf muscles.
3. Minimize the effects of jet lag. Starting a few days before travel, go to bed a few hours later than usual if traveling west, or a few hours earlier if flying east. During the flight, drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and large meals.
4. Do not be afraid to wear a mask. The confined space of the airplane facilitates the transmission of infectious respiratory bugs. Wearing a mask can protect you – or your fellow passengers if you’re the one coughing up a storm.
If you are planning to travel internationally, it is recommended that you visit a doctor experienced in travel medicine in advance to understand what is needed as it relates to immunizations, medications, and more.