Do you plan to go on a trip this winter? As we begin to feel a chill in the air, many Vermonters start to think about warm winter vacations. Whether you are planning a safari in Africa, a cruise down the Amazon, or trekking in Nepal there are some things you may want to keep in mind. How you plan for your trip can make a big difference in how much fun you have while you are there – and how healthy you are upon your return.

There are simple steps you can take to stay safe and healthy:

  • Before you leave, you may need immunizations or preventative medications for your trip. Try to see your doctor at least 6 weeks before you leave so you will have time for vaccines or immunizations that you may need to get ahead of time.
  • If you are traveling to an area where there are mosquitos, you may need to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever or Japanese Encephalitis Virus. You may need to take medications to prevent malaria.
  • If you are traveling to an area where water or sewage might be compromised, you may need vaccines against Hepatitis A, polio or typhoid.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure to bring any prescription medications in the original container with the label intact. You will want to have enough for your entire trip and a little extra in case you get delayed.  If possible pack your medications in your carry-on luggage.  You will also want to bring medical supplies you use for existing conditions. Some examples include:
    • Eyeglasses and contact lenses and copies of your prescription for glasses/contacts.
      (Consider packing spare glasses and contacts in case yours are damaged while traveling).
    • Needles or syringes, such as for diabetes. (This requires a letter from your doctor on letterhead stationery.)
    • Insulin supplies
    • Inhalers
    • Epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens)
    • Medical alert bracelet

You may also want to bring:

  • Hand sanitizer or wipes: Alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol or antibacterial hand wipes.
  • Insect repellent
  • Permethrin: Permethrine is insect repellent for clothing. It may be needed if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Clothing can also be treated at home in advance.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 15 or greater with UVA and UVB protection.
  • Sunglasses and wide brim hat: Wear for additional sun protection.
  • Health insurance documents: Health insurance card (your regular plan and/or supplemental travel health insurance plan) and copies of claim forms.
  • Copies of all prescriptions: Make sure prescriptions include generic names. (Bring prescriptions for medicines, eye glasses/contacts, and other medical supplies.)
  • Contact card: Carry a contact card containing the street addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of the following:
    • Family member or close contact remaining in the United States
    • Health care provider(s) at home
    • Lodging at your destination
    • Area hospitals or clinics, including emergency services
    • U.S. embassy or consulate in the destination country or countries

The UVM Medical Center’s International Travel Clinic can help you with your pre-travel planning.  We will provide you with the medications and immunizations you need to remain healthy and enjoy your vacation. Please call us at 802-847-4594 for an appointment. Some medications and vaccines need to be taken several weeks before leaving on your trip.

Deborah Kutzko, APRN, is an Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner at the University of Vermont Medical Center.  Learn more about the Infectious Disease Department at the UVM Medical Center.

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