Summer Travel Health Advice
Use soap, water, and a dash of common sense.
Move Around, Drink Plenty of Fluids
Sitting in a cramped position for long periods -- whether in an airplane, car, or a bus -- can lead to an increased risk of potentially deadly blood clots, warns Wolfgang Schobersberger, MD, professor of intensive care medicine at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
To minimize risk, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and frequently move your legs, he says. Taking frequent, deep breaths can also improve circulation.
Those at moderate risk should also wear compression stockings, sometimes called support hose, he says. And those at high risk should ask their doctor about an injection of heparin immediately before the trip, which will provide protection for about 12 hours, he says.
Your risk for blood clots increases if you are age 60 or older, have heart disease, a family history of blood clots, varicose veins, obesity, cancer, are pregnant or recently had a baby, or have had recent surgery.
Don't Get Bitten
Mosquitoes are not just pesky pests: They can carry West Nile disease, dengue fever, even malaria. Ticks spread Lyme disease. But a few simple precautions can minimize your risk of getting bitten this summer, the experts say.
Among their travel health advice:
- Stay indoors at dawn and dusk and in the evening, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats. Shirts should be tucked in.
- Tuck your pants into your socks and wear boots, not sandals.
- Inspect yourself and your clothing for ticks, both during outdoor activity and at the end of the day. Prompt removal of attached ticks can prevent some infections.
- Consider using an insect repellent: Most experts recommend repellents containing DEET on skin and permethrin-containing repellents on clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear. But these ingredients can be toxic, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
Leave Fear -- and Masks -- at Home
Do not let fear of SARS ruin your summer vacation, Freedman says.
And even though designer masks are popping up in some airports, Freedman advises against them.
"They probably don't do a whole lot of good and may even facilitate the spread of germs," he says. Typically, masks bought in stories do not have a tight fit, he explains. Plus, they get easily soiled, so you may inadvertently spread germs when taking them off. Finally, the pore size is insufficient to catch viruses or bacteria, Freedman says.
"SARS may dominate the headlines, but there's no reason it should dominate your trip."
Published May 22, 2003.