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Hazards of Specific Modes of Travel

Plane crashes and shipwrecks make headlines, though the odds of experiencing such an event are minuscule. Many other hazards are associated with various modes of travel. Luckily for travelers, those other risks are often ones you can do something about.
Plane crashes and shipwrecks make headlines, though the odds of experiencing such an event are minuscule. Many other hazards are associated with various modes of travel. Luckily for travelers, those other risks are often ones you can do something about.
Flying exposes travelers to high altitudes, a decreased level of oxygen, relatively quick changes in atmospheric pressure during ascent and descent, dry air, and adjacency to other travelers who may be carrying transmissible diseases.

Major passenger airliners typically cruise at 36,000 feet and maintain cabin pressure at a level equivalent to 5,000 to 8,000 feet. At that pressure, oxygen in the cabin air is reduced to about 80 percent of what is present in the atmosphere at sea level. This may affect people with severe lung, heart or circulatory diseases. If you have such a condition, be sure to consult your physician before you travel by air.

During ascent and descent, the cabin pressure changes relatively quickly. If gas is unable to move freely in or out of your middle ears and sinus cavities, a pressure differential may occur, which can cause pain in your ears or sinuses. For this reason, it is important to remain awake while your plane ascends and descends and to actively equalize the pressure in your ears. Chewing gum will naturally make you equalize without any pharmacological aid. If you are congested or suffer from excessive postnasal drip, check with your physician or pharmacist to see if it is safe for you to take an over-the-counter decongestant (or a similar prescribed medication) to help keep open your sinus passages and to improve your ability to equalize your middle-ear pressure.

Long trans-meridian flights can also result in greater-than-usual fatigue. The more time zones you travel through, the more likely you are to experience the well-known phenomenon of jet lag. People traveling from the northern to the southern hemisphere (and vice versa) will experience a change in seasons as well as possible fatigue from a long flight. In addition, the noise level on a plane, the dryness of the cabin air, other irritants that may be present in the cabin environment and the physical inactivity of a long flight all contribute to heightened fatigue. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine and using a sleep aid or melatonin may help mitigate this problem. It is a good idea to build extra time into your schedule so you can rest after long flights.

When sitting in a cramped airplane seat for a long time, some travelers might experience a serious condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or develop blood clots in their legs. Learn more about DVT.

Finally, simply due to happenstance given the billions of people who fly each year, just about any sort of medical emergency may occur on board a plane. If an incident does occur, flight crew members have first-aid training — though they're not experienced medical personnel, and the equipment available to them is limited.

Some airlines check for visibly sick passengers in their waiting areas and during the boarding process. If you look like you may be sick, keep in mind that you may not be permitted to board.IF YOU FEEL SICK WHILE YOU'RE ON A PLANE
* Tell a crew member as soon as possible.
* If you are coughing, you may be asked to wear a surgical mask or cover your mouth and nose.
* If your illness is serious, the crew may move you to a different part of the plane or, if necessary, have the plane rerouted to the nearest airport so you can deplane there and be transported to a medical facility.Although infectious diseases receive a lot of attention, the major cause of disability or loss of life among travelers is motor vehicle crashes. A variety of factors contribute to motor vehicle crashes, most of which can be prevented or abated. These factors are well known and similar in all countries — the primary consideration is seat belt usage.

If you are the driver, reduce your chance of injury by familiarizing yourself with local traffic laws and cultural driving patterns before getting behind the wheel. Be aware that in some regions the local population may have limited observation of traffic laws with which you are familiar.

Know which side of the road to drive on, and plan to the extent that you can so you know the route you'll be taking. Most modern GPS devices are preloaded with global maps, so if you own a GPS, check to see if you can use it in countries where you will be traveling.

The risks of a motor vehicle accident are likely to be greatest in developing nations due to poor road infrastructure, the disrepair of many vehicles, a modest culture of safety, and limited or inaccessible medical care. Remote locations may not have local emergency medical providers or a level of care sufficient to meet the needs of a seriously injured traveler. In some areas, medical standards may be different from those of more populous areas. Remote regions of the world have their appeal, but it is worth considering these drawbacks as you make your travel plans.Marine travel involves some general hazards as well as those that are specific to certain types of vessels, destinations and activities. Most seagoing travelers are aboard either large cruise ships or small recreational boats.
CRUISE SHIPS
Travel on a cruise ship involves health hazards independent of your destination - associated simply with isolation, confinement and extended exposure to your fellow passengers and the crew members, who may be carrying communicable diseases. Outbreaks of chickenpox and rubella (German measles), for example, have been reported on cruise ships. The most common shipboard outbreak is vomiting and diarrhea caused by noroviruses. Respiratory infections and foodborne poisonings are also common on cruise ships, as are lifestyle disorders due to dietary changes, overeating and excessive alcohol consumption. Regardless of your itinerary, make sure you are up to date on all vaccinations for diseases such as measles/mumps/rubella, varicella (chicken pox), tetanus, seasonal flu and pneumonia. Other cruise-ship hazards are related to being on a moving vessel and include motion sickness, falls that result in injuries and falls overboard that result in drowning.

IF YOU ARE SICK OR INJURED WHILE ON A CRUISE SHIP
*Tell a crew member as soon as possible.
*Remember that cruise ships usually have a small medical facility on board where your illness may be treated.
*If your illness is serious, the medical staff may stabilize your condition and move you to a hospital on land for further evaluation and treatment.
*Medical evacuation at sea is complex, hazardous, expensive and often not possible, especially with transatlantic cruises. Before you go on a cruise, discuss with your doctor your fitness for travel, and purchase coverage that includes medical evacuation. Having medical evacuation coverage is vital if you take a cruise, because standard health insurance policies and Medicare do not cover evacuations.*RECREATIONAL VESSELS*
Health concerns for recreational boaters include injury, acute illness and other travel- related diseases. In 2016 there were more than 11.8 million registered recreational vessels in the United States alone. That year the U.S. Coast Guard logged 4,463 marine accidents, which involved 2,903 mandatory reportable injuries and 701 deaths. Most of the fatal injuries occurred on small vessels (26 feet or less). The types of vessels most often involved in fatalities included open motor boats (46 percent of incidents), kayaks and canoes (22 percent) and pontoons (7 percent).Drowning was the cause of death in 80 percent of fatal boating incidents. Trauma and hypothermia were among the other causes. Of those who drowned, 83 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Alcohol use is a major contributing factor in fatal boating incidents and is listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths. Other common risk factors include operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience and excessive speed. Take steps to minimize or eliminate these factors whenever you set sail.

The most important thing you can do is to wear a life jacket. They really do save lives.Medical rescues in remote locations, if even possible, are not covered by standard health insurance policies or Medicare. That's why having a dedicated medical evacuation plan that covers you worldwide is smart protection.


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