Arthur Appel, MD, an internist and nephrologist with Highland Medical, P.C., in Pearl River and a Senior Attending Physician at Montefiore Nyack Hospital, cautions to plan ahead while traveling during the winter season.
Before you head off on your winter vacation, do some advance planning so you can stay healthy on your trip. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure you have several extra days worth of prescription medicine on hand in case weather delays your return home, says Arthur Appel, M.D., an internist and nephrologist who is Senior Attending Physician at Montefiore Nyack Hospital.
“If you’re flying, carry important medication onboard with you,” advises Dr. Appel, who also has a private practice in Pearl River, New York. “If you pack it in your checked luggage, it could be lost, especially during the busy holiday season.” If you are going away for a long period and don’t want to carry all of your medication onboard, split it up among different checked bags. Bring your doctor’s phone number with you, in case you need more medication. The doctor can call in your prescription to a pharmacy wherever you are, as long as you are in the United States.
Get a Doctor’s Note
If your prescription is for a narcotic painkiller such as OxyContin or Percocet, Dr. Appel recommends you get a letter of certification from your doctor that the medication is for your personal use, particularly if you are traveling to another country. This is to avoid any suspicion that you might be trying to sell the medication.
Metal implants in the body, including joint replacements, plates, screws, and rods, can set off metal detectors at the airport. If you have any implants, your doctor can give you a letter to carry through airport security so you don’t have to go through a metal detector.
Write Everything Down
No matter where you are traveling to, bring a card that lists your medical conditions, medications and allergies. If you need to visit an urgent care facility or hospital while you’re away, it will be much easier to give them the card than to try to remember everything.
Check Your Insurance
Before you go, check your health insurance policy to see if it will cover you when you travel, especially if you are leaving the U.S., Dr. Appel says. “Your Medicare policy will be good in Florida, but you might not be covered outside the country,” he notes. “If you have a supplemental policy, find out if it covers international travel. You don’t want to get socked with a big medical bill.”
Bring Over-the-Counter Medications
In addition to prescription medications, it’s a good idea to have some common over-the-counter medications with you so you don’t have to run out in the middle of the night looking for a pharmacy. These include anti-diarrheal medication, antihistamines, anti-motion sickness medication, medicine for pain or fever (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen), laxatives, antacid, and Pepto Bismol for an upset stomach. If you’re going to a sunny spot, bring sunscreen.
If you have trouble walking long distances, call the airports you’re flying out of and into to arrange for someone to meet you with a wheelchair. Try to get an aisle seat so it’s easier to get up at least once an hour and walk around without having to crawl over anyone. “It’s important to walk around so blood doesn’t pool in the veins of your legs, which puts you at risk of a blood clot,” Dr. Appel says. “If you walk around, the muscles in your legs contract and squeeze the blood out of the veins, which prevents clots.” He notes that a clot in the legs can break off and travel up to the lungs, a potentially life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism.
Don’t eat gassy foods such as cabbage, beans, fried foods or carbonated beverages before you get on the plane, he says. “The increased pressure in the cabin can cause your stomach to expand and bloat. If you eat gassy foods, it will make things worse and you could end up being very uncomfortable on the plane.”
Dress for Your Destination
If you’re going to a colder climate, have extra layers ready when you step outside the airport. If you’re going to a warmer climate, have lighter clothing underneath your layers. The most important item of clothing no matter where you’re headed is a comfortable pair of shoes, Dr. Appel says. “Bring a pair of shoes that are cushioned, with heels that aren’t too high or too hard on the bottom. Shoes that hurt won’t let you do the things you want to do.”