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Travel Health -- Stay Safe and Secure

Have you eagerly anticipated a vacation only to have it ruined by a cold, stomach virus, the flu, or something even worse? Traveling, especially on vacation, can be an exciting adventure. However, when illness or injury results you may wish you’d stayed home! Public transportation, including air, rail, and bus, exposes you to a variety of people and germs. There is also the chance of an accident or even a terror attack which could cause many injuries. Although some factors remain outside your control, you can take action to help yourself stay safe and healthy while traveling.

First, you need a positive, confident attitude. Passivity or pessimism will not accomplish your task – you must take responsibility for your own health and safety (and that of your children, if any) and ready yourself to act quickly rather than waiting for someone else to do something. If your significant other has symptoms of a heart attack, it may be very difficult to stay calm and determine what needs to be done. However, the more practice you get with keeping calm in an emergency (meditation practice helps here) the better you will be able to help those you love. Remember, also, the principle “put your own oxygen mask on first.” Applied to other situations, this means that by taking care of yourself first you will have the strength to care for others. Willingness to ask for help is also important.

Second, make sure you are prepared before the trip. Start off as healthy as possible, with good nutrition, exercise, and medical care for any problems you may have. If you don’t already take a multivitamin, it is wise to begin taking one at least 3-4 weeks before leaving home. Also, a supplement such as Airborne can be very useful in preventing illness, by boosting the immune system. Follow the directions on the package for best results.

Classes in CPR and first aid are beneficial for everyone, especially parents. They could be crucial when traveling long distances. Do you know the signs of heart attack or stroke, and how to treat them? If you have specific health problems, make sure you know what complications could result during travel and how to recognize them. Check security regulations and safety/health alerts issued by government and transportation officials. If possible, pack extra medications and food in a carry-on bag in case of accident or emergency layover. You should also carry a first aid kit and hand sanitizer.

Third, as soon as you board the plane, train, or bus look for the emergency exits, fire extinguishers, AED (if applicable), and call buttons. An AED is a device that can be used by a layperson with no training; it is used to treat heart attacks. It is usually found on planes, and flight attendants will have experience with them. Listen carefully to any safety instructions given, and read safety brochures. Most people do not do this because they have heard it before. However, as transportation changes, guidelines may change, plus it is wise to be reminded of principles such as “put your own mask on first” that seem to go against common sense.

If an accident occurs, follow the instructions of the vehicle operators or attendants. As mentioned above, attempt to remain calm, at least until you and your loved ones are out of danger.

Practice good hygiene – wash or sanitize hands whenever they may be contaminated, avoid being in the direct path of sneezes or coughs, and carry tissues. Be sure to drink plenty of water so you do not become dehydrated. On longer trips, particularly by air, get up and move around at least once an hour, stretch and squeeze your legs frequently, and stay hydrated to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can lead to a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. Studies suggest that if the flight is 10 hours or longer, special elastic stockings designed to prevent DVT should be worn. Consult with your doctor.

Finally, after the trip allow yourself to rest as needed, and promptly treat any signs of illness. Enjoy your destination!

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Content copyright © 2013 by Anita Grace Simpson. All rights reserved.
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