Anticipating that wonderful trip that you’ve been planning for months is exciting. Sharing wonderful times with friends or loved ones is what many memories are made of. Anyone that thinks traveling is not incredibly stressful; either doesn’t travel very much or has their own private airplane.
Highway traffic to the airport, long check-in lines, newly imposed luggage fees, getting half undressed for security scanners, submitting to security patdowns, schlepping carry-on luggage to the gate (or am I the only one who seems to get the last gate that is ½ a mile away?), flight connections, lines for shuttles, rent-a-car, or competing for taxis… it just isn’t easy!
Most of us know that stress does nothing good for our health and when you combine it with the dynamics of being in an airplane environment for many hours, eating and sleeping away from home and changes in time zones… we have a recipe brewing for potential discomfort and illness.
What are the specific health risks we run into when traveling?
- Sinus infections
- Ear pain
- Blood clots in the legs
- Sleep disorders (jet lag)
One long study found that over 20% of airline passengers will develop a cold and that number didn’t include those who got the flu, a sinus infection or ear pain. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that you may be 100 times more likely to catch a cold on a plane than you are in your normal daily life.
So, in anticipation of these increased risks that traveling presents, my first recommendation is to call your health insurance company. If you live in Europe, make sure your e111 form is in order.
You may be wondering why I make this suggestion. In this day and age of bureaucracy and multiple-page contracts, it may surprise many of us as to how limited our health insurance coverage is when we are out of state and especially out of the country. A call to your health insurance provider to get the lay of the land as to what is and isn’t covered should you need medical care when traveling, will prevent some unpleasant financial surprises.
If your coverage is limited, temporary health plans can be purchased for just a week or two and are relatively inexpensive, if you are basically healthy.
Elsewhere in this newsletter we discuss migraines and travel. In this article, advice on how to reduce the risk of sinus infections, colds, flu, ear pain, jet lag and blood clots, follows: