Hey mom, come on over and visit me. We can go out and see some of the countryside during my vacation.
Who could resist the invitation?
So for the last few months I have been planning my ‘big vacation’ to visit my son who lives in China.
This raises the question, how does a doctor prepare for a trip to China? Exactly how do I plan to stay healthy and enjoy myself?
Everyone says check online. But usually you get one-size-fits-all advice, which really means one-size-fits-none advice.
For example, if you check with the CDC they have a laundry list of all sorts of vaccines and health conditions to choose from. It’s a dizzying array of vaccines and health conditions to worry about. But they don’t actually tell you what you need.
You are left wondering, what from that big list actually applies to me? That can be a bit tricky to discern.
What I share here is specific to my exact travel plans and my personal health. I’ll show you my thinking and strategy so that you can understand how I plan to stay well when traveling.
Which strategy is best for you will depend upon your underlying health and your exact itinerary. What is appropriate for me may not be appropriate for you. It’s best to check with your own doctor to see which of the many CDC recommendations apply to you.
Routine and Travel Immunizations
Of course the first thing people think about is vaccines. I work in healthcare so all of my routine adult vaccines are up to date, including my flu shot.
I stay up to date because I don’t have time to get sick when I travel.
As they say in the healthcare business…common things happen commonly. That means protecting yourself against common germs with routine adult vaccines is the first order of business.
It would be disappointing to get sick just because you didn’t take time to get your shots. Your doctor can help you review this handy chart to help you get caught up.
Just to drive this point home- currently there is a large (57,000+ cases) outbreak of measles going on in China right now, so I’m happy to be protected. I certainly don’t want measles to be my souvenir.
I already have my Hepatitis A & B vaccines but I need a booster on my Typhoid vaccine. Not every traveler to China needs typhoid vaccine, but I am going out into some rustic areas in the countryside, so it’s best to be protected.
I will not have exposure to the conditions that favor Japanese Encephalitis so I will pass on that vaccine. The CDC also mentions rabies vaccine. Instead of purchasing $1000 in vaccine (yikes) I will avoid animals and purchase travel health insurance (see below). I wish it were more affordable, since it’s such an effective vaccine.
Blood clots can be both uncomfortable and dangerous. I need to be careful since it is a long a 14-hour flight. I’ll be sporting anti-embolism stockings under my travel clothes. They are not stylish, but effective. In addition to preventing blood clots the stockings keep my feet from swelling, making it much easier to move around once we arrive.
What am I going to do about jet lag? The last time I was in Beijing I was dragging the entire week.
This trip I’ll be off 12 hours from our home time zone. By my calculations we’ll be adjusted just in time to return and have the same problem again. Ugh!
I looked into several apps and online programs to help you switch your time zones. But although they are based on science, using light at the major trigger for resetting your internal clock, they are too cumbersome and too complicated to be practical for anyone who has to work before and after the trip
I’ll get plenty of sleep for the week before travel, so that I am not working on a sleep deficit, which always makes jet lag worse. Once I arrive, I have several very quiet slow days planned. That will allow me to get myself out into the sunlight as much as possible.
Using sunlight, especially in the morning and evening, to reset my internal clock along with melatonin at bedtime should help reset things as quick as possible.
I’ll definitely be dragging for a few days. Fortunately I’ll be a tourist; it won’t matter as much that I am foggy for the first week.
Treat Health Problems
Underlying Health and Medications
I am rather healthy, only suffering from allergies. Of course I’ll bring plenty of my regular meds. I’ll also pack some of over-the-counter products for upset stomach, skin problems, and pain relief.
Because I will be in remote locations and eating in very small eateries I will bring along some antibiotics to self treat in the event of intestinal trouble. The best plan will be to eat hot, freshly cooked food and pure water. I want to bring antibiotics along so that I able to nip any tummy trouble in the bud before it ruins my travel plans.
Travel Health Insurance with Evacuation
Travel health insurance with evacuation is the solution to so many problems. My health insurance doesn’t work outside of the USA. If I became ill or injured I would have to pay cash to get the medical care I need which can run well over $50,000. This type of travel insurance is very affordable, less than $65 for 2 weeks. It covers me for healthcare while abroad, including if I am bit by a potentially rabid animal or need an air ambulance home. It costs is far less than even a change airline ticket fee to come home for treatment. Hopefully, I’ll never need to use this insurance, but it brings me peace of mind to know this problem is solved.
The excitement is building as I get closer to my departure. I can’t wait to see my son.
It takes a bit of advanced planning to prepare for travel to China. Fortunately, it takes far less time to prepare to stay healthy than to book my hotels, transportation and activities. I have so many exciting excursions planned I don’t want to loose a single day to illness.
If you are planning on traveling to China it’s a good idea to get started now.
- Start by reviewing the recommendations of the CDC.
- Make plans to manage any chronic health problems such as asthma or diabetes that need to be controlled while you travel.
- Allow enough time to get an appointment with your doctor to find out which health recommendations apply to you.
Of course, it takes some preparation but it’s really worthwhile. You don’t want to loose a single minute of your visit due to a preventible health problem. You’ll thank yourself when you feel well the entire trip.
How do you prepare to stay healthy while traveling? Please share in the comments below:
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photo courtesy of tequillapartners