When summer time rolls around, many families have only one thing on their mind: vacation. With the kids out of school, and the weather warming up, it’s the perfect time to get out of the house, and explore the world. While some families opt to hit the beach to beat the heat, others choose to head north or overseas and experience cooler climates while they get away from daily life. One thing that all families have in common when they go on vacation: health care is still a concern.
Whether you have children or not, your health is something you need to keep in mind when you are traveling. In addition to your regular health care routines, it’s important to consider the strains that traveling can have on your health. From needing extra vaccines to taking into consideration the stress that travel can cause, taking care of your health on vacation can ensure that you have a great time. We all know how important it is to bring your prescriptions with you, but what else can you do to protect your health while on vacation? Here are nine essential health care items to bring with you this year to make your summer vacation fun and healthy:
1. Your Insurance Card
If you will be flying or heading out of the country for summer vacation, you can’t always bring other health care items with you. Airlines restrict many substances and medications, and getting through customs for another country can be difficult with controlled substances. This is why it’s important to bring your insurance card with you. Be sure that you have all the information you need to obtain any prescription medications or medical services when you are on vacation, and you won’t have to worry about what to do without.
If you do plan to have prescription medications filled while on vacation due to flying or travel restrictions, it’s best to have your pharmacist or doctor call ahead to a pharmacy where you are headed. You should also take the time to identify emergency services that take your insurance or consider purchasing traveler’s medical insurance. Be sure you take records of vaccinations with you if you plan to go out of the country. It’s also a good idea to have your doctor’s phone number stored so, that you can contact them should your prescriptions need refilling when you are away.
Sunburns are one of the most common ailments on summer vacation, but you may be surprised to learn that they aren’t limited to beach-bound vacationers. If you take a road trip with your family, you are also at risk for sunburns, especially on your arms where the sun shines through the car windows. Even if you head to the snow for some skiing, you still need to wear sunscreen.
Getting sunburnt, even just a handful of times can greatly increase your chances at developing melanoma and other types of skin conditions. Sunburns can also cause fevers, fatigue, headaches, and other ill feelings, which can make your vacation much less fun. Be sure to apply sunscreen early and often any time you are exposed to the sun on your vacation. Use at least 15 SPF sunscreen to block almost all UV rays. You should also consider wearing long sleeves, a protective hat, and sunglasses to keep the sun off your skin when possible
3. Water Purification Tablets
If you plan to camp this summer, or you’re heading to an area where clean water isn’t always available, it’s very important to pack water purification tablets. Drinking water that hasn’t been treated to ward against a variety of microscopic organisms can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, fevers, stomach cramps, or even more serious conditions that require emergency medical treatment.
Even if water is clear and moving, it doesn’t mean that it is safe to drink. If you aren’t bringing your own bottled water or using well water, or water that is treated by a municipality, you should treat it to be on the safe side. Iodine, chlorine, and even homemade filtration systems are also emergency water filtration options that may be considered if necessary.
4. Motion Sickness Treatment
Summer vacation almost always includes travel of some sort. Whether you are going by plane, car, or boat, motion sickness can creep up on you out of nowhere. And if your vacation will be spent largely in motion, such as a road trip, or a cruise, you could be in for a very queasy time.
Motion sickness treatments come in a variety of forms. Over-the-counter medications can be used, as well as acupressure bracelets, infusions or teas with ginger, antihistamines, or even prescription patches that a doctor can give you before you head out on your vacation. Even if you’ve never experienced motion sickness before, it’s a good idea to consider packing a few of these items – it would be much worse to be caught without and need them.
5. Disinfectant Wipes or Hand Sanitizer
One of the leading causes of catching the summer colds and sniffles that are common when people travel, especially on a plane, is a lack of attention to hygiene. Touching a bathroom door handle, and then wiping your face, or tucking your hair behind your ear, can be all a virus needs to infect you just in time for you to land at your vacation spot. Even more so than in your daily life, it’s important to use hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes when you are on vacation.
In addition to washing your hands frequently, you may also want to consider using other preventative measures, such as taking an immune-supporting supplement, or possibly even wearing a medical mask if you will be traveling through a very crowded area.
6. Basic First Aid Kit
A basic first aid kit can come in handy for so many reasons, even if you plan to travel near plenty of emergency services. Whether you are road tripping, hitting the beach, or camping in the woods, a first aid kit can be a lifesaver. Be sure that your kit is well stocked with bandages, antiseptic wipes, antihistamine ointment, a thermometer, a chemical cold compress, saline eye wash, and tweezers (for getting out splinters!).
While this is an item you should always carry in your car, it’s even more important to double check it when you travel. If you can avoid an unfamiliar doctor or a trip to a local hospital or clinic, your vacation will be much more enjoyable. And if you travel with children, you’re almost guaranteed to run into at least one scraped knee or bug bite in the summer.
7. Written Record of Important Phone Numbers
If you are traveling solo, or you will be separated from your party at any time, it’s important to carry emergency contact phone numbers with you. And while everyone has a cell phone these days, remember that cell phones can die when you least want them to. And if your phone is locked, and you are in a worst-case scenario, how will an emergency responder be able to access your contacts to get in touch with your family?
Instead, carry a notecard, luggage tag, or some other kind of written record of your emergency contacts. This allows any emergency personnel to easily get in touch with your party so that you are never separated. (It’s also important in case you get lost – how many of us remember phone numbers in this age of cell phones?)
8. Digestion Protection
One of the first things that anyone does on vacation is to try new foods or have a few drinks to celebrate the occasion. If you go too far off your regular diet, or you eat foods that you’ve never tried before, you may find that your stomach doesn’t react well. And drinking too much alcohol can lead to digestive issues as well, especially if you aren’t used to imbibing all that often.
An antacid, Pepto-Bismol, and a laxative can all be important things to bring with you to stay healthy. The worst thing for any vacation is to be too sick from what you ate or drank to enjoy your getaway. If you frequently suffer from heartburn, you may want to consider something stronger, such as an over-the-counter Nexium.
9. Insect Repellent
Bug bites can be more than just irritating and itchy. Depending upon which part of the country you are visiting, or if you are traveling outside of the country, you could be facing insects that carry diseases or are poisonous. Even if you aren’t vacationing in a rural area, insects are everywhere in the summer, when they are out in full force to mate, like other animals. You could only step outside to refill your gas tank and get a bite.
For this reason, insect repellent is an important health item to take with you on summer vacation. Insects are especially drawn to areas of stagnant water, or humid locations, so be on guard when in these areas especially. Be sure you reapply insect repellent if you get wet, and pay particular attention to the areas that you wouldn’t actively notice with your eyes, such as the backs of ankles and knees.
Protect Your Health for a Better Vacation
Often we are so busy planning the best vacation ever, that we forget to consider the mundane things like bringing along sunscreen and antacid. Instead, we picture ourselves floating down-river on a relaxing day, surfing a wave for the first time, or shopping in designer stores in a beautiful city. It’s great to get away from our day to day lives, but don’t forget that your health comes back with you.
While Vegas may keep secrets, it doesn’t keep your bad health choices. If you catch a cold or spend your entire vacation sick because of the motion of the cruise ship, you’ll come back even more tired, stressed out, and disappointed than you were before you left – not to mention the money you spent on your vacation would have been wasted.
By protecting your health, you ensure that your vacation truly is the best one yet. And that includes more than just packing essential healthcare items for your summer vacation. You should also take care to optimize your health before you head off on vacation, too. A few weeks before your vacation, start taking supplements, or clean up your diet a little, so that you can be in the best health when it’s time to leave. Even if you are trying to get extra work done before you leave, be sure that you are getting plenty of sleep. Check into any vaccinations you may need for where you are traveling, and research the area to find out what sorts of weather and health care concerns you may be faced with.
While you are on vacation, having fun is important. But you should also be sensible about the food and drink you consume. If you aren’t used to eating a lot of greasy, fried foods, you may want to limit your intake of the local specialty. It may force you to get creative with your food choices while on vacation, but that’s much better than experiencing stomach cramps while you are trying to enjoy the beach.
You should also check the airline regulations before you pack any health care items, and be sure that you don’t pack anything that could cause your bag to be searched, or that will be confiscated. You can almost always purchase hygiene items like hand sanitizer at the airport where you land or search out a general store as soon as you land. This quick pit stop will make it easier to get through the airport, which is a stressful enough place for anyone.
With these nine essential health care items, your summer vacation will be relaxing and restorative, and you can return home feeling ready to get back to your life after a great time.