Top health tips for travelers

Whether you’re off to campsite getaway or traveling to another country, getting sick disrupts your vacation. Patrick Courtney, MD, family medicine provider at MercyOne North Iowa Family Medicine Residency, shares his tips to keeping you and your family healthy when traveling.

First-aid for families

When it comes to packing for your family, having an appropriate first-aid kit is essential. But not all first-aid kits should be built the same.

“If you’re going to a city, resort or somewhere well populated, only pack the light things. If you’re going to a campsite, bring a big chunk of your kids’ medicine cabinet,” says Dr. Courtney.

Common first-aid care includes:

  • Acetaminophen/ibuprofen
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Fluids for diarrhea
  • List of medicines and medical conditions
  • Prescription medicines
  • Sanitizer
  • Sunscreen

“It’s also a good idea to know local hazardous critters – fire ants, jellyfish, mosquitos, etc.” says Dr. Courtney.

Essentials for first-aid kit

Airports and germs

Airports have lots of high touch surfaces. The best thing way to prevent picking up germs at the airport — sanitizing and hand washing.

Wash your hands or sanitize:

  • Before eating.
  • After going through security.
  • Before touching your face.
  • After using the bathroom.

“Killing the germs with sanitizer or soap is the most helpful thing to do,” says Dr. Courtney.

Sleep schedule on vacation

Keep yourself healthy while on vacation with a good night’s rest.

“You want to make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep,” says Dr. Courtney. “Drinking too much alcohol will make you feel more tired and lower your sleep quality.”

If you’re traveling to a different time zone, you can adjust your sleep by:

  • Setting alarms.
  • Getting and staying out of bed.
  • Shifting your sleep schedule by 20-30 minutes per day.

Sleep well for your health

Travel constipation

Travel constipation happens when you are unable to poop on your regular schedule while traveling. Constipation can be caused by different things including:

  • Change in activities.
  • Change in diet.
  • Change in routine.
  • Drinking more alcohol.
  • Eating less fiber.
  • Eating more fat.

“If you typically poop after a certain meal, but now have an activity or something disrupting your schedule, you’ll hold it in,” says Dr. Courtney. “This causes your poop to dry out more, making it harder to pass.”

Remedies for constipation

If it’s been a day or more passed your normal schedule, pick up a stool softener.

“If you already have constipation, fiber and osmotic laxatives will add more bloating and bulk, but not soften things to help pass,” says Dr. Courtney. “A stool softener, or if needed a suppository or enema, will break up the constipation dam.”

Preventing constipation on vacation

To avoid constipation, try to maintain your normal intake of fiber. Eat your fruits, vegetables and whole grains or take a fiber supplement.

Contact your primary care provider for any vaccination requirements and if you have any concerns before or after your travel dates.


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