Safe, Healthy Travel

Vacation Safely: A Few Health Precautions Are Key

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

There’s nothing quite like travel to rejuvenate and recharge. Vacation planning is already under way for families, friends and couples looking to escape winter’s chill by retreating to warmer climates. As the recent news coverage about the Zika virus has highlighted for many travelers, taking proper health precautions is key to a safe vacation, no matter the destination.

“It’s important to meet with a travel health professional to discuss your destinations, determine whether any vaccinations are needed and what medications to pack and other related issues to ensure good health during your trip,” says Mark Selitsky, M.D., director of the Travel Health Clinic for Henry Ford Health System, which sees patients who travel to more than 100 countries every year.

Before you pack your bag and get your passport ready, Dr. Selitsky offers some practical tips for planning your trip and to keep in mind during your vacation:

  • Learn about your destination. Visit cdc.gov/travel to learn of any health risks or travel warnings in effect in the country you’re planning to visit.
  • Get a Hepatitis A vaccination. The vaccine protects against food-borne infections.
  • Pack insect repellent. Insect repellent can help reduce exposure to mosquito bites that may carry diseases like malaria or Zika, which has been in the news so much lately. Look for a repellent that contains DEET or Picardin as these ingredients typically provide longer-lasting protection.
  • Choose beverages wisely. Bottled water and carbonated sodas are the safest. Hot liquids such as tea or coffee are OK. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks and ice cubes.
  • Use common sense when eating. While there are no guarantees, the best place to get food would be a restaurant by the resort, or an international chain, since they are believed to follow a higher standard for safety, cleanliness and proper hygiene. Avoid food stands on the street. If you’re preparing your own food, follow this popular expression, “Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it.”
  • Slather on the sunscreen. Whether visiting a warm or cold climate, use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection and a minimum SPF 15. It should be reapplied every 2 to 3 hours.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating or preparing food and after you use the bathroom, cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Don’t take risks. Limit alcohol intake and do not drink alcohol and drive. Always wear a seatbelt, use caution when swimming and wear protective gear when doing adventure activities. Avoid going barefoot, especially on beaches to prevent fungal and parasite infections.

Dr. Mark Selitsky is an internal medicine physician and is the director of Henry Ford’s Travel Health Clinic. Travel clinic consults are available at Henry Ford Medical Center – Columbus in Novi and at Henry Ford’s Quick Care Clinic in downtown Detroit. For an appointment, call (248) 344-0723.