Guest Post by Henry DePhillips, Chief Medical Officer
Labor Day: the signal that summer is coming to a close and we’re entering fall. If you are like me, you probably plan to get one last “summer event” in by the end of Labor Day weekend. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Labor Day is one of the most traveled holidays of the year. This year, AAA estimates that 35.5 million Americans will be traveling for Labor Day, the highest travel volume for the holiday since 2008, according to the travel authority.
Unfortunately, among the millions of Americans planning a last trip of summer, it’s likely that someone they’re traveling with will get sick or need medical care while they’re out-of-town. Interestingly, a June 2015 Teladoc survey conducted by Kelton Global found that nearly one in two people surveyed said they or someone they were with became ill while traveling on vacation. While we’d like our travels to be illness free, unfortunately, there are no guarantees.
Nobody wants to be sick on vacation. In fact, 57 percent of Americans surveyed said they would be willing to do something if it guaranteed they would not get sick while traveling, including giving up a day of vacation (32 percent); giving up access to the internet (39 percent), or sitting through a timeshare seminar (27 percent).
While we know no one wants to get sick while on vacation, we also know most Americans don’t prepare appropriately. A key sign: When packing for a trip, 68 percent of Americans typically don’t bring preventative health care items, 82 percent don’t always bring their doctor’s contact information and 53 percent don’t always bring their health insurance cards.
My son is a Boy Scout. The Scout motto is, “Be Prepared.” That holds true here, as well. Many say that someone being unwell caused others on the trip to be stressed (34 percent), upset (22 percent), or get sick themselves (12 percent). This negative ripple effect shows that the effect of sickness on a vacation can be far-reaching.
So, as you depart for your Labor Day adventure, please consider my top five list for traveling:
- Always pack your health insurance card. If it’s an active trip, take a photo of your card on your phone for safe keeping, or put all of your essentials in a waterproof bag if you’re planning to hit the lake or beach.
- Incorporate a healthy dose of physical activity into your trip plans and bring plenty of water along. Staying active and well hydrated energizes your body and keeps it functioning properly.
- Keep travel-sized sunscreen with you and reapply every few hours. Severe sunburns constitute 17 percent of medical conditions that require Americans to pause their vacation and see a medical professional.
- All roads lead back to washing your hands with soap and warm water. If this isn’t possible, make sure you have disinfectant wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. More than one-third of Americans surveyed reported needing medical attention for cold or flu symptoms. Prevent these common conditions by wiping down germy areas and keeping your hands clean.
- And remember, a quick consult with Teladoc could be all it takes to get the care you need while traveling, so make sure you’re registered with Teladoc’s service and have downloaded our mobile app, so you can have a trusted health care resource wherever you go, whenever you need it. Our physicians are available 24/7/365 via phone, mobile device, or secure video and internet.
Have a happy, healthy Labor Day.
Henry DePhillips, MD, FAAFP