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Add A Checkup To Your Checklist For International Travel At Sturdy Memorial Hospital's Occupational Health Service

Would you travel to Antarctica without a warm coat and winter gear? Or Central America without sunscreen? You make sure to pack for the climate and arrange for airplane and hotel tickets, passports, travelers checks, and international cell phones when traveling abroad. But what preparations do you make for your health? Even if you do not take prescription medications or have any underlying conditions, you may still need to get vaccinations for traveling to another part of the world, and know what precautions you should take while you are away. Occupational Health Service (OHS) at Sturdy Memorial Hospital offers a comprehensive program in International Travel Medicine to help prepare people who are planning trips outside the country, which includes full travel evaluation and vaccination services as well as counseling on international health and safety risks. By designating OHS as the first stop on your international traveling itinerary, you will ensure you know and have everything you need for your trip overseas. Here are some tips for your trip:

Planning Ahead

"Certain diseases that people are not exposed to in this country are present in other places," says Christopher Quinn, MD, Director of Occupational Health Service and board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. "To protect yourself, you need to know what vaccinations are necessary for travel to particular destinations." Occupational Health Service will help you determine this as well as provide you with the vaccinations you need. After you receive your necessary vaccinations, OHS will then give you a Yellow Card, also known as an "International Certificate of Vaccination," to take with you on your trip. You will need this card as proof of vaccination to enter certain countries, and it becomes valid 10 days after vaccination and lasts for 10 years. Remember that "vaccinations can take time to take effect - sometimes six weeks," says Dr. Quinn, so consult your physician or a travel clinic such as OHS, as soon as possible.

Check whether your health insurance provides out-of-country coverage, and to what extent. Normal health insurance does not pay for medical evaluation in a country with inadequate medical facilities, so consider purchasing a short-term health and emergency assistance policies designed for travelers.

Do some research to find the contact information and addresses of clinics and area hospitals in your destination, and carry this information with you in case of a health emergency. Also know that medical systems abroad may not operate in the same way or follow the same regulations enforced in the United States, so performing research before you go will help you prepare for a possible health issue.

In Your Suitcase

Occupational Health Service advises travelers to always bring more medication than needed and transport them in carry-on bags, not checked luggage, in the event of lost luggage and delays. "Medications should be carried in their original labeled prescription bottles and items such as syringes and narcotics should be accompanied by your physician's prescription," says Anna Goulet, RN, Travel Nurse at Sturdy Memorial Hospital.

"First-aid kits for minor injuries, headaches, stomach upset, etc. should be packed as well," says Anna, "including decongestants, ibuprofen, antacid, hand sanitizer, and bandages." If you are heading to an area with a warm climate, consider bringing insect repellant containing N,N-diethylmetatoluamide (DEET) and sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater.

On The Plane

Long periods of immobility and risk factors such as obesity, recent leg surgery, and heart disease can cause a blood clot in the legs, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). To help prevent a blood clot, walk up and down the aisles or rotate your ankles while seated at least once per hour while on the plane, and stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding too much alcohol, coffee, and tea.

On Arrival

To counter the effects of jet lag, which is indicated by sleep disturbance, the inability to concentrate, and irritability, you may wish to go to bed soon after you reach your destination. Instead, you should get active and adjust your meals and activities to local time as soon as possible when you arrive. Try to stay awake as long as the sun is out, and exposure to sunlight is a good way to allow your body to naturally adjust to the new time zone.

Health Preparations Help Travel Plans Run Smoothly

Whether you plan to travel for business or leisure, or to visit family and friends for the holidays, remember that health problems can happen anywhere and at any time, so it never hurts to be prepared. Occupational Health Service's International Travel Medicine program works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure that all safe travel and vaccination regulations are up-to-date, as well as to share global outbreak information and other health news with the program's clients. For more information about international travel health, contact OHS at 508-236-7500 or visit the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/.