DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Prudent Travel Planning

Planning for safe travel involves much more than securing your plane tickets and hotel reservations. Many hazards associated with travel -- even to remote and dangerous settings -- can be eliminated, or at the very least mitigated, by prudent planning. These actions are among the things you should do well before you leave home or even before you book your trip.Planning for safe travel involves much more than securing your plane tickets and hotel reservations. Many hazards associated with travel -- even to remote and dangerous settings -- can be eliminated, or at the very least mitigated, by prudent planning. These actions are among the things you should do well before you leave home or even before you book your trip.All travelers have a responsibility to themselves and to their traveling companions to research some basic facts about their destination. For example, knowing what the weather is like where you're going -- at the time of year you will be there -- will allow you to pack clothing that will keep you safe and comfortable. Knowing the extent of local health precautions will help you determine what is safe to eat and drink and what items to avoid. This type of planning is an important first step in ensuring a great trip, whether to a favorite location or a brand-new spot.How is your health? Has there been any change in your health status since your last trip? Are you seeing a physician before your trip to treat even a minor health issue? For example, a "simple" hernia could become entrapped and require emergency surgery where no such service exists. It is judicious to get your doctor's approval for an upcoming trip and recommendations for maintaining good health during it. If you have activity limitations that would restrict the amount of walking, climbing or bicycling you do on your journey, you'll need to factor that into your plans. Your abilities should match the type of lodging you choose and the means of transportation you'll use during your trip.Do you really know your medications -- what drugs you take, the dosage and possible side effects? Certain medications can make you drowsy, more susceptible to acute mountain sickness or inattentive, while others can cause hypotension (low blood pressure), muscle pain, photosensitivity (an abnormal reaction to the sun), headache or other responses. These side effects can be annoying or, even worse, can increase your risk of injury during your travels. If you must start new medication before a trip, discuss with your physician when it will be safe to travel. In some countries, for certain medications you are required to carry with you an original prescription bearing your name and your physician's signature. You may not be able to obtain any prescription medication or nutritional supplements you might need at your destination, so plan ahead.Make sure to pack all appropriate health and safety-related necessities, but travel as light as possible otherwise. Hauling heavy luggage around may hurt your shoulders or back and spoil your trip. If you are flying, use your carry-on luggage for essentials such as your passport and other travel documents, medications, valuables and anything you need to travel in comfort. Try to limit your carryon luggage in number, size and weight so you can move expeditiously through airports and easily lift your bag into the overhead compartment. If possible, keep the space under the seat in front of you empty so you can stretch your legs. If you must walk for a long distance, try not to carry more than 10 percent of your body weight. Put a copy of your travel documents in each piece of luggage so you will still have critical information if one or more pieces are delayed or lost.Purchasing travel health and medical evacuation insurance is highly prudent. Travelers are often responsible for hospital fees and other medical expenses they incur while abroad. Check your health insurance plan to see if it will cover your health needs abroad. Most domestic health insurance plans, including Medicare, do not. Even if you do have coverage, you should be prepared to pay out of pocket at the time you receive any medical services while you are traveling.Before you leave home on a trip, especially if you are heading for a remote area or an undeveloped/underdeveloped country, make sure you know the signs and symptoms of common illnesses for the area in which you are traveling. This will prepare you to recognize them so you can act quickly in case of an emergency during your trip. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is a helpful resource for location-specific health information.It's always a good idea to be sure that at least one person back home has all the details of your itinerary and knows how to reach you — including where you would likely be taken in case of a medical emergency. The U.S. Coast Guard's


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