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Sharp Health News

Health tips for long-distance travel

June 30, 2017

Health tips for long-distance travel

Long-distance foreign travel is hard on any of us, but especially so for seniors. And while airlines, hotels and tour companies take age and ability into account when accommodating their customers, there are still some things that older travelers should do on their own.

Dr. David Spees, director of travel clinics for Sharp Rees-Stealy, shares a few suggestions:

  1. Carry your medications — in their original containers — in your carry-on luggage.
    If your checked bags are lost, you don’t want to wait for or have to replace your medications.

  2. Keep a separate list of your medications, along with their generic names.
    If you do lose medications and have to visit a pharmacy, you’ll want to know their names and dosages. Plus, names for drugs might be different in another country, so generic names make replacement easier.

  3. Keep a folder of medical information with you, either printed out or on your cellphone.
    Information should include how to contact your doctor, as well as any important records (for instance, if you have heart disease, snap a photo of your EKG). If you have to be treated for anything at your destination, these can be helpful.

  4. Make sure you have all the right vaccinations.
    Some places you’re visiting might have certain diseases not encountered at home.

  5. Pack light.
    That 50-pound limit the airline places on your bag might not seem like a lot — until you try lifting and carrying it. Rolling luggage is a must-have.

  6. Prepare.
    Stock up on over-the-counter medications that can help with headaches, constipation, diarrhea and other conditions common to travel. Check your medical insurance to make sure you are covered in another country. Buy evacuation insurance because an emergency flight back to the U.S. can be financially devastating if paid out-of-pocket. Bring clothing that’s right for your trip; overheating or a chill can lower your immunity.

  7. Make the flight as comfortable as you can.
    Wear compression socks to help with circulation during all that sitting. Have a light sweater or jacket to stay warm. Avoid alcohol on the flight, but drink plenty of fluids. Tell the airline if you have any dietary restrictions. And ask for an aisle seat if you’ve reached that point when bathroom breaks come more suddenly and frequently.

“I think the most important advice I give my older patients is to pace yourself,” says Dr. Spees. “Plan for extra fatigue, and make that first day of your trip a nice leisurely one. Accidents and lower immunity happen when we’re tired. And now that we have the time and money to travel, why not slow down and enjoy it?”

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Spees about travel health tips for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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