Even if you are in perfect health, it’s important to take certain precautions when travelling, and this is especially true for older people. Here are 12 tips to help you stay healthy and make the most of your getaway.
1. As soon as you have chosen your destination, find out what vaccines are required or recommended. Several vaccines can now be given in a single injection.
2. Get vaccinated well before your trip so that your body has enough time to develop the necessary immunity. As you get older, you may not develop strong immunity after receiving a vaccine, or immunity may not develop as quickly as before.
3. Are you thinking of visiting a country that requires a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever?
Over the age of 60, you are more likely to experience serious side effects from this vaccine. Be sure to speak to your physician or travel health clinic beforehand about the risks and benefits of yellow fever vaccination. It’s important to find out about this even before you make your reservation.
4. Get a flu shot, no matter where you’re going.
Although the flu season is from November to April in the northern hemisphere, it lasts all year round in tropical countries. What’s more, people aged 65 and over and those with chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes are more likely to experience complications if they get the flu. There is a greater risk of catching the virus in crowded places, like large gatherings, cruise ships, airplanes, etc.
5. Avoid foot injuries by wearing the correct footwear. If you nick your foot on the beach or scratch yourself on coral while swimming, these injuries can easily become infected. This is particularly true for diabetics.
Extreme temperatures and the sun
6. Be alert to the signs and symptoms of heatstroke. Heat can be more dangerous for older people for various reasons, such as reduced perspiration or the use of certain medications. Make sure you can recognize the signs and symptoms of heatstroke: dizziness, confusion, nausea, rapid breathing or heartbeat, decreased urination and dark urine, etc. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and must be treated quickly.
7. Stay hydrated. You might be less sensitive to feeling thirsty now than in the past, so be sure to drink plenty of water whenever you get the chance.
8. Protect yourself from the sun. By using a sufficient amount of sunscreen and wearing a hat and sunglasses, you can protect yourself from UV rays and stay comfortable during your vacation.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
9. Avoid DVT. One serious risk associated with long journeys is developing deep vein thrombosis, which can lead to a pulmonary embolism. Here are a few ways you can reduce the risk:
- When travelling by plane or train, get up frequently to walk around.
- Choose an aisle seat so that you can stretch out your legs.
- Wear compression stockings, especially for air travel.
- Wear loose clothing that will not affect your circulation and allows you to move freely.
- Drink water regularly (one litre every four hours) and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Avoid crossing your legs.
- When travelling by car, make frequent stops to stretch your legs.
10. Protect yourself from malaria. The risk of developing severe malaria increases with age. It’s essential to find out whether malaria is present in the region you plan to visit. Make an appointment with a specialist at a travel health clinic at least six weeks before your trip to find out if you can or must take antimalarial drugs. Bring a list of all your medications, because some drugs can interact with antimalarials. Remember that no drug can offer complete protection against malaria, so you need to protect yourself against mosquito bites too.
11. Make sure that your shoes are in good condition. They should offer good support for your feet and ankles, and have anti-slip soles. This will help reduce your risk of falling and perhaps suffering serious injury.
12. Check with your physician and your insurer: it is still possible to travel if you have a chronic condition. However, you must get approval from your physician. It is also essential to check with your insurer that your condition can be covered. We demystify this tricky issue in our article “Travel insurance and health conditions: your questions answered.”