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Video: How to Handle Health Problems While Traveling

12/14/15 Christopher Sanford, MD, MPH, DTM&H, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Associate Professor, Department of Global Health, University of Washington

Transcript of Interview With Dr. Christopher Sanford

Transcript of Interview With Dr. Christopher Sanford

Whether you’re traveling for the holidays or taking a family trip, here are a few pointers that will keep you fit during your travels.

I’m Dr. Christopher Sanford. I’m a family practice physician and I work here at the University of Washington where I run a travel clinic, and I write the chapter for the Merck Manual on travel medicine.

When I see someone who is taking public transportation or has a prolonged jet trip, some of the things that we talk about include dehydration, infections and blood clots.

One thing that’s common in jet travelers is dehydration. One factor is people are in their seats for hours and hours, and the pilot tells you that you can’t walk, so you don’t have access to fluids. Also, the air on jets is very dry, so just breathing that very dry climate for several hours can dry you out.

One good measure of your hydration status is how frequently you are urinating. If you are not urinating very often and your urine is dark yellow, then you are probably dehydrated. If you’re urinating frequently and your urine is near colorless, then that’s a good sign.

A couple of things you can do to bring down your risk of infection while traveling are routine immunizations including influenza, and also there is a surprisingly strong benefit in regular hand washing with soap and water.

One thing that’s very prudent to prepare and take with you is a medical kit. This would include any medications that you’ve used over the previous year in addition to your routine prescription medications.

Another risk to folks who are either taking long jet trips or driving long distance is a DVT, or deep venous thrombosis – blood clots.

Some people, when they ask about the risks of bringing down blood clots, say ‘Well, I’ll just take aspirin, that’s a blood thinner. Is that a good idea?’ And although intuitively that makes sense, it’s not actually advised. Some things that can bring down risk a little bit would be keeping well hydrated, getting up and walking, taking breaks frequently, and even if you’re stuck on a jet and you can’t walk, even doing exercises and moving your feet and your calves up and down is going to give some protection.

If someone gets sick during a vacation, if it seems like a head cold for example, if it’s only a minor runny nose, sore throat, cough, then it probably is a head cold and antibiotics really don’t help, and they really don’t need to see a physician. Things like ibuprofen and salt water gargles can have some benefit, but if people seem sicker to themselves than an ordinary head cold, for example, if they have a high fever or they are short of breath, then they should seek medical attention.

If folks are in a low resource country they should have a lower threshold for seeking medical care. A lot of infectious processes in low income countries are much more common. For example, people can get malaria or dengue fever, which can be very dire unless appropriately treated.

Related Manuals Topics

Specific Medical Conditions and Travel Problems in Transit
Deep Vein Thrombosis