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Vacation health care

Planning ahead of time can make your travels smoother and help you avoid problems. Let's talk today about vacation health care.

Always prepare in advance for health problems you might experience when you travel. Ask your health insurance carrier what they will cover or pay for, and consider buying traveler's insurance when you travel abroad. If your children are not traveling with you, leave a signed consent-to-treat form with their caretaker. And if you are taking medications, talk to your health care provider before leaving. Make sure you carry your medications in your carry-on bag, never in your luggage. Research the health care in the country you are visiting. And if you can, find out where you would go if you needed medical help.

So, what should you pack?

Well, you'll want to bring several important items on your trip. Pack a first aid kit, immunization records, insurance ID cards, and medical records for any chronic illnesses or recent medical surgery. Bring a list of the names and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care providers. Pack any nonprescription medications you might need, along with sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

So, what do you do on the road?

When you travel, know what steps you need to take to prevent different diseases and infections. This includes how to avoid mosquito bites, what foods you can eat safely, where you can eat safely, how to drink water and other liquids, and proper hand washing.

If you are visiting an area where traveler's diarrhea is common, know how to prevent and treat it. Be aware of automobile safety and use seat belts when you travel. Upon arriving at your destination, check the local emergency number. If you're traveling a long way, expect your body to adjust to a new time zone at about the rate of 1 hour per day.

If you're traveling with children, make sure they know the name and telephone number of your hotel, just in case they get separated from you. Write this information down and put it in their pocket. Give them enough money to make a phone call, and make sure they know how to use phones if you are visiting a foreign country.

As always, a little preparation goes a long way to preventing problems.

Review Date: 2/19/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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