Dr. Mollie Cecil

Warmer, longer days are here, and with the approach of summer many of us are looking forward to travel plans. Get the most out of your vacation with these health tips from WVU Medicine primary care provider Mollie Cecil, MD.

1. Prep for international travel.
Many countries have native diseases and conditions you don’t have to worry about in the United States — and so you aren’t vaccinated for them. Always check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) traveler’s website for up-to-date information on necessary vaccines and precautions to take while abroad. Especially take note of countries where malaria or yellow fever are native, as these can cause life-threatening and fatal illnesses. Thankfully, malaria can be prevented with a medication regimen, and yellow fever can be prevented with a vaccine. Make sure to discuss any upcoming international travel plans with your primary care doctor. Consider visiting the WVU Travel Medicine Clinic for a one-stop, convenient, high-quality, pre-travel consultation and immunizations.

2. Stretch to prevent blood clots.
Blood clots are a very common condition affecting men and women that can be highly dangerous. Certain medical conditions, such as Factor V Leiden, cancer, or Lupus can predispose you to blood clots, but you can also be at risk for blood clots if you take certain types of medications (e.g., birth control pills) or if you’re a smoker. In addition to these risk factors, anyone who doesn’t move for prolonged periods of time — such as on long car or airplane rides — is at risk for blood clots. To avoid blood clots:

  • When driving, take frequent breaks to get out of the car, walk around, and stretch. Stretching and moving the muscles of the calves and thighs are especially beneficial.
  • When flying, get up and move around as often as possible. Many airlines now provide handouts on exercises to prevent blood clots.
  • Talk with your doctor about your risk of blood clots to make sure you don’t need any additional prevention measures.

3. Stay safe in mountainous areas.
Did you know that you can get very ill just by visiting places with high elevation? Breathing problems, feeling sick, or even brain swelling can develop. Whether you’re skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer, it’s important to make sure your body adjusts well to any change in elevation. High altitudes can be more dangerous if you have chronic lung or heart conditions.

Talk with your primary care doctor about any planned travel to elevations higher than 10,000 feet. He or she can advise you if high altitudes are dangerous for you. Your doctor can also make recommendations on the safest way to adjust to higher altitudes and give you a medication, such as acetazolamide, to help prevent sickness.

4. Be aware of your risk of Zika virus.
There has been a lot of news coverage about the Zika virus in the past year, and unfortunately, it’s here to stay. Both men and women of childbearing age need to be aware of their risk of Zika, as both men and women can pass the virus to each other and to a developing fetus. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if you are a man whose partner is pregnant or planning to become pregnant, check the CDC’s Zika website for up-to-date information on virus activity. If you are planning on having a baby, postpone any travel to locations with possible Zika transmission.

5. Prepare to manage your chronic conditions.
You may have left your worries at home, but unfortunately, you can’t leave behind your chronic medical conditions that easily. Always make sure that you have enough medication to last for your entire trip. Make sure all medications are clearly labeled, and always have enough medication in your carry-on airplane baggage to last several days. If you take insulin that needs to be kept cool, make sure you have a plan for how to keep it cold. In many countries, it can be very difficult or even impossible to get the medications you are taking now, so be careful not to lose your medications.

6. Have insurance for travel emergencies.
Emergency medical insurance is just as necessary if you’re travelling as it is at home. Make sure you know how your health insurance covers you if you are out of your home state when you travel. If necessary, purchase travel insurance to make sure that you can receive medical care and be evacuated if needed.

Travel can be an exciting and fun activity that allows us to learn more about ourselves and the world. With the proper planning and precautions, you can embark on your adventures with confidence. Happy travels!