ROCHESTER, Minn. — Experiencing new cultures and exploring new places are great ways to exercise the brain and may even contribute to healthy aging, according to a Special Report on Healthy Traveling, an eight-page supplement to the June issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter.
The Special Report offers information especially helpful for older adults, including how to prevent common illnesses, considerations for international travel and when to consult a physician about upcoming travel.
Travel tips include:
Jet lag — Older adults may have more severe jet lag and take longer to recover. Travelers can minimize jet lag by shifting to the local schedule as soon as possible. Travelers may be able to avoid jet lag by adjusting sleep schedules a few days before traveling.
Traveler's diarrhea — Contaminated food or water, or even excitement, anxiety and jet lag can contribute to traveler's diarrhea. It often strikes abruptly and causes four to five loose or watery bowel movements each day. In most cases, traveler's diarrhea will go away in a day or two without medical treatment. Most doctors don't recommend preventive medications such as antibiotics or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), except in special circumstances. The best prevention is good hand hygiene and food and water safety. International travelers should drink only bottled beverages or liquids that have been boiled. For food, the general rule is: "Boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it."
Motion sickness — Travelers susceptible to motion sickness should consult a physician about over-the-counter or prescription medications. Some natural remedies have been shown to reduce symptoms, too. Options include acupressure wristbands, ginger tea or dietary supplements or aromatherapy.
Care before travel — Travelers of all ages leaving the country can benefit from a pretravel medical appointment, ideally four to six weeks before departure. The doctor will perform a physical exam and assess the health risks associated with travel plans.
In most cases, the patient's regular doctor can provide this care. Travelers with specific medical conditions who are heading to Asia, Africa or Latin America may benefit from an appointment at a travel medicine clinic. There, care providers often have advanced training or board certification in travel medicine or tropical medicine. While services at these clinics vary, many providers offer a comprehensive overview of health hazards associated with specific travel plans and detailed advice on how to stay well.
Travel medicine clinics often are associated with large medical centers or universities. Travel medicine clinic listings are available from the International Society of Travel Medicine and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Be safe — Injury is the most common cause of preventable death among travelers. Common-sense safety tips — wearing seat belts, avoiding traveling alone or at night, and moderating alcohol intake — will serve travelers well no matter where they are.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today's health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online.