Summer travel tips: See your doctor and plan ahead

No one wants to think about getting sick or hurt on vacation. But if this does happen, being prepared can make the experience much better—and safer. Here’s a safety checklist for your pre-trip planning.

  1. If you’re older or have chronic health issues, see your doctor four to six weeks before your trip to make sure it’s safe for you to travel. Tell your doctor where you’re traveling, for how long and what activities you might do. Check to make sure your vaccinations are current, including a flu shot.
  2. Make a list of your current medications and allergies and take the list with you on your trip. Include the names and phone numbers of your doctors and your pharmacy. If you have a history of heart disease, ask your cardiologist to give you a wallet-sized version of your latest electrocardiogram (EKG). This will give emergency department (ED) doctors something to compare if you have heart troubles while away.
  3. It’s also a good idea to bring over-the-counter medicines: Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, Benadryl and a thermometer should be part of your travel health kit. Remember to bring a note on your doctor’s letterhead if you are taking controlled substances or injectable medications.
  4. For older travelers with health conditions, be careful about your amount of activity —going to graduations, weddings, reunions and other parties on top of sightseeing can be stressful and make health issues worse. Try to build in rest time so you stay safe and healthy.

What to expect in the ED

If you do end up in the ED, a nurse will assess your symptoms, measure your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature and oxygen level), and gauge any pain you may be having. This process helps define how severe your condition is, so that the most urgent patients are seen first.

The ED has an expert team led by emergency physicians to assess and treat problems. Other team members may include registered nurses, physician assistants, registered nurse practitioners, ED technicians, respiratory therapists, care managers and social workers. Most EDs, like ours, have specialists such as orthopedists, cardiologists and surgeons on call 24/7. We can call them in to provide care when needed.

After your care team reviews all necessary treatments and procedures, your provider will determine whether you can leave the hospital, or if it’s necessary to stay. If you require follow up while you’re still in town, a doctor will refer you to a local primary care provider or specialist. In some instances you may need to return to the ED for a final checkup.

While you may not be able to prevent an illness or injury while traveling, planning ahead can make it easier to deal with.

Mike Remoll, MD, is the medical director of the Emergency Department at Anne Arundel Medical Center.
Originally published June 29, 2016. Last updated May 21, 2019.

Leave a Reply