We love our mountain home in Summit County, and yet we are a community of travelers. Our adventurous nature brought us here, and when our guests leave the region at the end of the season, we often do too. I also believe that our foreign visitors share just enough of their cultures with us to pique our curiosity. Travel is one of my favorite pastimes, as I was born in Switzerland. Since then my adventures have included venturing to Guatemala for Spanish language immersion and enjoying the beaches of Fiji for my honeymoon 28 years ago.
When traveling abroad, securing a passport is only the beginning of a trip. Every year, I see dozens of patients preparing to travel somewhere exotic. The challenge is that they sometimes meet with me too late to ensure a safe trip from a health perspective. Naturally, preparations vary depending on where you're headed, but there are a few common things to consider for any adventure. To guarantee that you can fit in a full cycle of vaccinations, we recommend visiting your health care provider at least six months in advance. Beyond routine childhood vaccines and the associated boosters you may or may not have had over the years, you may also need to consider preventive shots for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever and anti-malarial treatments, among others. The Centers for Disease Control has a fabulous website which details the immunizations you should consider listed by country as well as detailed information on healthy traveling. (wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.htm).
Beyond carrying your own health insurance, I always recommend travel insurance - not just for prospective trip cancellations but also for the supplemental health aspects. Sure, hiking Angel Falls in southeastern Venezuela seemed like the thrill of a lifetime when you started up the trail, but the one-way rescue helicopter trip on the way down could break you financially.
En route, be sure to get up and stretch a bit: even the healthiest among us are susceptible to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots which can occur when seated for long periods of time. While sitting, flex your ankles back and forth to keep the blood moving through the veins in your calves. If you develop leg pain or swelling, seek medical care immediately.
What's in your bags, both carry-on and checked luggage, is critically important for your good health. First, bring all prescription medications in their original bottles in your carry-on bag. Pack enough for the trip plus extra in case of travel delays. Some countries do not allow you to carry certain medications such as narcotics. It's worth checking in advance.
Gather together contents for a small first aid and personal care kit: over-the-counter medications for pain, fever, allergies, cough, diarrhea and motion sickness along with sunscreen, anti-bacterial gel, insect repellant, bandages, antiseptic wipes, moleskin for blisters and a thermometer. Upon arrival, consider bottled water as needed and be cautious with some types of fresh fruit, vegetables and food from street vendors. Seek medical assistance for a combination of diarrhea and high fever as well as extended feverish periods in malarial zones. Know that the rules we use for our mountain escapes hold doubly true while traveling: Make sure someone knows where you're going and when you plan to return.
Finally, enjoy yourself! Perhaps the most famous American writer of travelogues, Mark Twain, urges us to look many years ahead without regret: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
(Please just prepare in advance!)
Physician assistant Lisa Brozovich has been with High Country Healthcare nearly 20 years and has lived in Summit County for 30. She has a wide range of medical experience including family practice, urgent care, orthopedics and school-based health care.