Healthy travel habits: Prevent illnesses, injuries en route with advance planning

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Community members who are planning to travel during this holiday season can help prevent travel-induced injuries and be prepared for illnesses by planning ahead.
Here is a checklist of items to think about before and during travel.
Travel health insurance
• Travelers are responsible for hospital and other medical expenses incurred during their trip.
• Travelers should check their health insurance plan to see if their health needs are covered abroad and think about purchasing additional health insurance, if necessary.
• Travelers should also consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance, which will cover the cost of transportation to other parts of a country or outside the country, in case of a serious injury or illness.
For more information on medical insurance while traveling, visit the U.S. Department of State website at
• Those who receive any medical services while traveling should be prepared to pay out of pocket, even if they have insurance.

Be prepared

It is a good idea to know beforehand the signs and symptoms of illness. This will prepare travelers to recognize symptoms so that they can take action quickly while on their trip. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define an ill traveler as a person who has one or more of the following symptoms:

• Appearing obviously sick (e.g., severe headache, weakness, skin or eyes turning yellow)
• Fever of 100° F (38° C) or greater
• Skin rash
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Severe cough that does not go away
• Confusion, especially if it has just started
• Bruising or bleeding (without previous injury)
• Diarrhea that does not go away
• Vomiting that does not go away (other than motion sickness)
If a person has any of these symptoms while still at home, he or she should talk with a doctor before traveling.

Health concerns for airplane travel
Airplane travel, especially flights longer than eight hours, may increase the risk for blood clots, also known as Deep Vein Thrombosis/Pulmonary Embolism.
More information about DVT/PE is available on the CDC website at
A person has an increased risk for DVT/PE if he or she has had DVT/PE in the past; recent surgery (especially abdominal or orthopedic surgery); is pregnant; is a smoker; is taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, or has cancer, restricted movement, or a blood-clotting problem. Those with any of these conditions, should talk to their doctor before traveling. People at higher risk for DVT/PE may be prescribed medication during travel.

To prevent DVT/PE during flight:
• Stay hydrated
• Wear loose-fitting clothing
• Make an effort to walk and stretch legs and arms at least once an hour
A doctor may recommend wearing special stockings that reduce leg swelling and encourage blood flow.

Oxygen levels in flight
The air pressure in flight is lower than that at sea level. This lowers the amount of oxygen carried in the blood.

Most healthy travelers will not notice these changes. However, passengers with certain medical conditions, particularly heart and lung diseases and blood disorders, such as anemia, may not be able to tolerate this reduced oxygen level.

Those who are concerned about needing more oxygen can talk with their doctor and airline a few days before their trip to arrange for additional oxygen during flight.