As we age, we come face-to-face with a whole new set of health concerns. Fortunately, when we take a little time to better understand our risks – and take preventive measures to decrease those risks – we can ensure a healthier tomorrow throughout our golden years.
For those who love to travel, don’t let age stop you! While age, mobility, and your health status do play an important role in your travel plans, by following these precautions you can travel safely.
- Check the weather forecast. A change in weather may exact a heavier toll on aging and elderly people. Make sure the country that you are visiting is not in the hottest, coldest, or rainiest season and plan ahead for the climate you are entering.
- Protect your skin from the sun. Always wear adequate sun protection. As we age our skin can become delicate and sensitive to the sun. You may not be adjusted to the amount of sun exposure you receive in another country. In addition to wearing adequate sun protection make sure you stay adequately hydrated. It is important to remember that your body may need more fluid than you are accustomed to drinking.
- Watch what you eat. Depending on the country you travel to, you will want to prevent foodborne illness by monitoring the food you eat. Make sure all food is thoroughly cooked and served hot. In some countries you cannot drink the water and that will prevent you from eating foods that are washed in the tap water, such as salads. You will need to drink boiled or purified water. Always be aware of what you are eating.
- Get your immunizations. You may need immunizations or other prophylactic measures. Visit The University of Vermont Medical Center international travel clinic to decide what necessary immunizations you may need for your vacation.
- Plan ahead for medical emergencies. Make sure you have travel insurance for medical emergencies. Also, carry your prescriptions in the original bottles, and write down the generic names. When traveling bring your prescriptions with you as a carry on and keep them with you at all times. You may also want to write any medical conditions you have in the local language.
- Ward off insects. You may not be able to swim or walk through in any freshwater lakes or streams due to illnesses. Protect yourself: Always wear adequate mosquito repellant with DEET in order to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.
- Slow down. Travel at a pace that you can tolerate. Traveling in a new country may cause fatigue and confusion. Traveling at a slower pace will allow you to enjoy and have a less stressful vacation. You may be at a higher risk for falls as you are not accustomed to your surroundings. Always be aware of your surroundings and bring the necessary medical equipment that you may need with you.
Laura Catoe, APRN, is an infectious disease nurse practitioner at The University of Vermont Medical Center.