How to Keep Your Teens Healthy When Traveling
always important to take care of your health, whether you're
at home or on the road, but there are some additional concerns
that are important to keep in mind when you're traveling.
you're taking a trip with your family or plan to live abroad
for several months for a study
program, it's easier to get sick when you're in a new place
because your body hasn't had a chance to adjust to the food,
water, and air in a new environment. Traveling can bring you
in contact with things that your body isn't used to. Continue
reading for tips for keeping your travel experience as healthy
Take a Vacation From Health
The stress and excitement of travel can make you more likely
to get sick, but if you follow a few simple tips, you're more
likely to stay healthy throughout your trip - and your trip
will definitely be more enjoyable. The good news is that as
a teen, your immune system is as strong as an adult's, but lack
and a poor diet can make it easier for you to become sick.
first thing you should do if you're heading overseas is to find
out what kinds of vaccinations you'll need in advance, since
different countries have different requirements. In the United
States, contact your doctor or the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention for a list of necessary vaccinations. You'll
want to allow plenty of time for this step in case you need
to get vaccines that require more than one dose.
of the most common health problems that you may experience when
traveling are jet lag, altitude sickness, and diarrhea. When
you fly across time zones, the differing amounts of light can
change your internal body clock, resulting in a condition known
as jet lag. Jet lag causes some symptoms that are bummers on
a fun trip, including upset stomach, insomnia, and tiredness.
are some things you can do to combat jet lag; for example, if
you're traveling from west to east, you should stay out of the
sun until the day after your arrival. If you're flying from
east to west, go for a brisk walk as soon as possible after
is caused by dry air, lack of oxygen, and low barometric pressure
when you travel to a higher altitude than you're used to. As
a result, you may have problems, such as headaches, dehydration,
and shortness of breath. Some people are affected at 5,000 feet
(1,524 meters), but others aren't affected until they reach
altitudes of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) or more. Find out what
altitude you're traveling to to see if this could be a problem.
best prevention for altitude sickness is to gradually increase
your altitude every day to get used to it. If that isn't possible,
a drug known as acetazolamide (Diamox) can help relieve and
even prevent symptoms of altitude sickness. If you know that
you might get altitude sickness, talk
with your doctor before you leave home.
topic of diarrhea may seem gross, but it can be a serious problem.
known as turista, often occurs
when a foreign type of bacteria enters your digestive tract,
usually when you eat contaminated food. The best way to prevent
turista is to be very careful of the food you eat and the water
you drink on the road.
Eats and Drinks
what foods are safe to eat? Any foods that have been boiled
are generally safe, as well as fruits and vegetables that have
to be peeled before eating. Avoid eating uncooked or undercooked
meat or meat that is not cooked just prior to serving.
away from foods that require a lot of handling before serving.
Here's an example: nine friends ate at a restaurant in Mexico;
eight had diarrhea a few hours later. The one who didn't get
sick was the only one who had ordered enchiladas, a dish that
didn't need to be touched by human hands right before serving.
of your favorite foods at home is on the safe list on the road
- pizza! Pizza dough, sauce, and cheese are foods that are less
likely to spoil than others, and the high heat of a pizza oven
tends to kill any harmful bacteria in the food.
probably heard that you shouldn't drink the water in Mexico,
but did you know why? Water supplies in Mexico - and in most
developing countries - are not treated in the same way as water
supplies in developed countries; various bacteria, viruses,
and parasites are commonly found in the water. Many experts
suggest you drink only bottled water when traveling. If you
need to use tap water, you should boil it first or purify it
with an iodine tablet. And don't use ice unless it's made from
water you know is safe.
you're brushing your teeth, rinsing contact lenses, or drinking
a small glass of water to wash down pills, you should first
take precautions to ensure the water is safe," says Wayne
Riley, MD, of the Baylor College of Medicine.
Can Take It With You
you're packing, you'll want to include any medications and other
medical supplies you use on a daily basis because they may be
hard to find in another country if you run out. Even if you
can find them, there's a good chance the formulations will be
stronger or weaker than the ones you're used to.
These may include
any prescriptions you already take, such as inhalers, allergy
medication, and insulin,
as well as contact lens cleaners and vitamins.
Packing an over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen
(such as Tylenol), and diarrhea medication is also a good idea.
Richard Barnes, a soccer coach who has traveled frequently with
teens, suggests you pack some over-the-counter allergy medication
even if you don't take it at home. Barnes says that sometimes
people unexpectedly develop allergic reactions to the pollens
and other allergens found in a new environment. "Many players
with asthma or other allergies unexpectedly react to these new
substances," he says.
It All Down
if you watch what you eat and drink and get enough rest while
you're traveling, you may still get sick. The good news is that
you'll probably be able to find competent medical care. The
key, says Kenneth V. Iserson, MD, a professor of surgery at
the University of Arizona Health Science Center, is knowing
where to go. "Most travel guides suggest you go to a hospital
where English is spoken or American-trained doctors can be found,"
he says. For this reason, it's a good idea to always carry a
written copy of your medical history with you.
such important information available in one place can help health
care workers make appropriate decisions, and you won't have
to worry about forgetting important information at a time when
you're likely to be upset and not thinking clearly.
you leave your home sweet home, create a medical history form
that includes the following information:
name, address, and home phone number as well as a parent's
daytime phone number
doctor's name, address, and office and emergency phone numbers
name, address, and phone number of your health insurance carrier,
including your policy number
list of any chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes,
list of current medications you are taking and pharmacy name
and phone number
list of allergies to medications, food, insects, and animals
prescription for glasses or contact lenses
name, address, and phone number of family member or relative
other than your parent
also helps if you have some basic emergency medical knowledge,
not only for yourself but for helping others you may be traveling
with. A great way to prepare for your trip is to take a first
aid, CPR, or emergency medical training (EMT) class before you
go; if you're traveling with a group, you should know where
the first-aid kit is and what's in it.
you practice these healthy hints you can focus on the scenery
- not medical emergencies - and return home with nothing more
than some tacky souvenirs.
more information for your teens, visit www.kidshealth.org