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Summer is here, and for many of us that means traveling to visit family, friends or going to new places we have not seen before.
If you are like me, traveling can be a wonderful way to get away from it all and enjoy family and friends. I prefer traveling by car so that I can enjoy the countryside during the trip. However, if the trip involves traveling to someplace not easily reached by car, then flying is in order. Either way, there are things you should do that will decrease your risk of travel-associated illness.
First and foremost, remain as active as possible during the trip. Whether traveling by car or airplane, it is important to exercise your legs to keep the blood flowing. Keeping your legs still for too long can lead to blood clot formation in your legs known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Exercising your legs, even by contracting the muscles in your legs, can greatly decrease this risk. If traveling by car, get out and move around every couple of hours.
Try to eat food that you normally would eat. Often, we want to experiment during our trips, which can lead to upset stomachs or diarrhea. Be sure to stay hydrated, but if you are traveling to developing nations, avoid tap water. Bottled water is always better.
If you suffer from heart or lung disease, please consult with your health care provider before traveling a great distance. Anyone who is diabetic should be sure to have sugar packets or fruit with them in case of low blood sugar. If you are pregnant, be sure to consult with your provider before going on any long trips. Most of this time, this is of no concern, but it depends on whether any complications have arisen during pregnancy as well as how far along you are.
Keep in mind that traveling can be good for your health. People are frequently more active when traveling, which is good for any weight loss efforts. Getting away from daily stress can be very healthy as well. Traveling can also lead to new social connections and open the mind to new ways of thinking.
Most importantly, get out and enjoy the summer. We only live once. Don’t become a couch potato! Whether it is one town over or half way across the country, get out and enjoy. You will feel better for it.
If you need a primary care provider, call Wilson Medical Center’s Physician Referral Line at 1-800-424-DOCS (3627).
Ron Stahl, MD, is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.