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Six Health Tips Every Boomer and Senior Should Know Before Traveling

August 6, 2014



A snapshot of an older couple with nature in the background on vacationMarvin and Reva Mallon were able to get the care they needed even on their road trip.

Marvin Mallon, 86, and his wife Reva, know how important it is to plan ahead before embarking on a long journey — especially when it comes to their health.

During a road trip through the United States and Canada, Marvin Mallon needed regular hormone injections to treat his prostate cancer. Thanks to his Kaiser Permanente physician, the Southern California grandfather was able to receive his treatment during a stopover in Helena, Mont.

“I was miles away from my doctor and Kaiser Permanente saw to it that I was taken care of,” said Mallon.

“Older adults usually have several health concerns,” said Jose Dryjanski, MD, a travel medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. “They should consult with their doctor or a travel clinic before going on a long trip. Being prepared is the key to staying safe and healthy.” Dr. Dryjanski offers six basic health tips for a less stressful trip.

1. Get vaccinated
Learn what vaccines are needed. You may need shots to protect against pneumonia, measles, meningitis, polio and other diseases. To develop immunity, vaccines need to be given four to six weeks before your trip begins, so plan accordingly.

Jose Dryjanski, MD, a travel medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

Jose Dryjanski, MD, a travel medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

2. Remember to take your medication
Refill your prescriptions before you leave. Bring a list of all your medications in case you lose them or need medical attention. Bring important medicines in a carry-on bag. If you have diabetes, check with your airline about travel restrictions regarding insulin, insulin syringes and blood-glucose testing supplies.

3. Drink bottled water and avoid raw food
Stay hydrated. If you’re traveling in a developing country, drink bottled water and bottled juices only. Avoid ice, ice cream, soft cheeses and raw vegetables. Bacteria found in these foods can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

4. Exercise often
Take stretch or walking breaks, especially if you’re on a plane or in a car. Sitting for long periods of time can cause vein and pulmonary clots.

5. Prevent falls and injuries
It’s easy to fall while traveling. You can stumble on a curb while sightseeing or trip in your unfamiliar hotel room. Walk carefully and make sure your room has proper lighting and a clear path to the bathroom — free of telephone cords, bags and suitcases.

6. Protect against mosquito bites and sun damage
Mosquito bites can transmit diseases such as malaria. Wear clothing that covers your skin and use insect repellant approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Prevent sun damage by using sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30.

If you’re traveling abroad, find out in advance if your health plan covers you. Kaiser Permanente members are covered for emergency care anywhere in the world. For more tips, visit share.kp.org/travel. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk to your physician.