Starting April 11th (for Seattle Public Schools) Seattleites will take to the skies and the highways with the hopes of escaping the daily work or school routine with a spring break getaway. Whether your idea of spring break is a relaxing holiday on the beach, a road trip with the family, or a week with your closest friends, spring break poses its own set of health concerns. Spring break stressors – which can include heatstroke, safety concerns and more – can all be minimized by planning ahead and taking a few simple precautions. Here are some tips to make this year’s spring vacation fun, safe and healthy for yourself, your friends and your family.
Pack a medical kit. Rather than trying to find a pharmacy, especially if battling a language barrier, make a point to pack a small medical kit for urgent needs. Tylenol for pain and fever; antihistamines such as Benadryl for allergies; Neosporin for cuts and plenty of BandAids are good to have on hand. If traveling out of the county, it would be wise to carry antibiotics in case of “traveler’s tummy.”
Ensure you are up-to-date with vaccines. Influenza vaccine is recommended as this can be found in some countries even during summer months. Tetanus vaccine should be updated every 10 years for any cuts or wounds that get dirty. For travel outside of the U.S. certain vaccines like Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines may be recommended. Consulting the Center for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov/travel) is a good starting point.
Hydrate Often. One of the more common ailments when traveling is dehydration especially with destinations that have hotter climates. Strive to drink water frequently throughout the day to prevent illness.
Be careful of what you eat and drink. Depending on your location, food can be prepared quite differently and cleanliness of water can be questionable. For food, know what you’re eating and how it’s prepared to prevent food borne illness. Additionally, ensure that you have medication with you for an upset stomach. For water, if you’re unsure if it’s safe to drink, buy bottled water and avoid ice cubes that might be frozen from a contaminated water source. Also, fruits and vegetables may have been washed in contaminated water resulting in gastrointestinal illness. As a tip, boiling water at a rolling boil for at least 5 minutes can kill most pathogens.
Protect yourself against the sun. Make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF for the whole family. The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10a.m. and 4p.m., and can bounce back from sand, snow or concrete. Cover all of the exposed skin often with copious amounts of sunscreen. Use before and after watersports and exercise, just remember it takes 30 minutes to be effective. Sunscreen is generally not recommended for infants under 6 months of age – use long sleeves and hat to keep a baby’s skin protected from the sun.
Get traveler’s insurance. If leaving the country, it is advisable to have traveler’s insurance. Emergency evacuations and international medical care are likely not covered by your health insurance carrier.
Stay alert! The biggest reason for injuries and deaths in the U.S. and abroad when traveling is car accidents. Make sure to take frequent breaks and rest stops on long car rides. Traffic patterns in foreign countries may be more chaotic. As a pedestrian, use extra caution in these situations. Additionally, while there’s nothing wrong with indulging a little on vacation, be careful about how much, and where you drink alcohol as it can make you vulnerable to unsolicited danger.
Most importantly – have fun! Spring break should be a time to relax and unwind from the day-to-day stress of school, home life and work. But in many cases, it’s not always that simple. Make sure to follow these tips to ensure that your vacation is memorable for all the right reasons.
Dr. Stephen Weinberger practices pediatrics and internal medicine at the Pacific Medical Center Canyon Park clinic. Pacific Medical Centers is a private, not-for-profit, multi-specialty health care network of nine locations with 150 primary and specialty care providers. Its nine locations are in the Puget Sound neighborhoods of Beacon Hill, Canyon Park, Federal Way, First Hill, Lynnwood, Northgate, Puyallup, Renton and Totem Lake. To better serve our patients, in 2016 we plan to open clinics in Lakewood and Lacey. Pacific Medical Centers serves patients with commercial insurance, retired military and their families, family members of active-duty personnel, as well as the underserved in our community. www.PacMed.org