Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Plan a Healthy Summer Vacation

By Jason Terk, MD
Past President, Texas Pediatric Society
Keller Pediatrician
Member, TMA Be Wise Immunize Advisory Panel

The CDC's travel guide. Click to visit.
This summer, many folks will be hitting the roads, seas, and skies for travel destinations both luxurious and humble. If your travel includes international destinations, it is important to be aware of what health precautions you and your family should take. Some of these precautions will require advance planning.

When my patients ask me what they need for travel to a specific destination, I always consult the most reliable source, which is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. If you point your browser to this link, you can search for any international location and find information specific to that destination about whether you will need certain vaccines or malaria prevention medications. If you find that either are required for travel to the destination(s) you will be visiting, plan ahead to consult your doctor or visit a local travel medicine clinic.

One additional new concern is the threat of Zika transmission from the bites of mosquitoes. I cannot overemphasize this point: Pregnant women, or women who might be or are planning to become pregnant should not travel to areas with risk for Zika transmission — including the Miami area and the Rio Grande Valley. For non-pregnant couples, because Zika is also sexually transmitted, precautions must be taken during and following travel to Zika-risk areas. Non-pregnant women should abstain from sex or use a barrier contraceptive during and following travel for a period of at least eight weeks to reduce risk of transmission to their sexual partners. Because Zika persists in semen longer than in other body fluids, men should abstain from sex or use a barrier contraceptive during and following travel for a period of at least six months to reduce risk of transmission to their sexual partners. All travelers to Zika-risk areas should use an effective insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on their bodies and a permethrin-containing insect repellent on their clothes. Bed netting may be used in rooms that are not screened or air-conditioned. Talk to your doctor and visit this link for more information.

Got a smartphone? Download the CDC’s TravWell app to help plan a safe and healthy trip. The app lets you build a trip to get destination-specific vaccine recommendations, get a checklist of what you need to do to prepare, and customize a healthy travel packing list. It also lets you store travel documents, keep a record of your medications and immunizations, and set reminders to get vaccine booster doses or take medicines while you’re traveling.

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