This is a guest post written by Bart, theGaypaC. Bart shares my love of travel and writes for gayhealth4u.com about all things related to gay men’s health. I thought it would be great for him to provide some tips on gay travel health for your next big trip.
If you are like me, you begin planning for your next vacation somewhere between baggage claim and the airport parking lot. Seriously who doesn’t love to travel? Yet, gay travel health is not always something we consider while we are planning. When it comes to your health, you gotta be smart. So here are five tips to help you stay safe, sane, and healthy on your next adventure.
1. Gay Travel Health: Planning Is Everything.
As you make phone calls to the travel agent or search the internet for that next tropical destination, make sure to include an appointment with your primary care provider. He or she can make sure you are up-to-date on all your immunizations (because who remembers their last tetanus shot, right?) and give guidance on destination specific disease prevention. You can do a bit of research yourself by checking out the CDC’s travel website. It allows you to select your travel destination by country and gives great advice on required or recommended vaccines. It also has other health and safety issues such as malaria prophylaxis, water safety, and rabies risk. I use this website all the time in my practice when counseling patients who are traveling to third world countries. Keep in mind that many vaccines require a series of two or three injections spaced months apart for complete immunity. (Ask me how many times someone comes to me three days prior to their trip to Thailand, needing a hepatitis A vaccine, which requires a series of two injections spaced 6 months apart….A LOT!)
2. Gay Travel Health: Planes are gross!
Seriously, a plane is flying petri dish teeming with microbes. But where is the dirtiest place on the plane? Unfortunately, it’s the fold down tray table where they PUT YOUR FOOD! Yuk! This is according to a study by Travelmath.com who sent microbiologists to collect bacterial samples from various surfaces on an airplane. The scientists found the tray table grew higher bacteria counts than the lavatory flush button. So, get out your sanitizer wipes and hose down your hands with hand sanitizer prior to your in-flight meal. Also, keep in mind that a plane is filled with potentially sick people. Make sure your influenza vaccine is current prior to your next trip so you don’t spend your dream Bora Bora trip in bed.
3. Gay Travel Health: Don’t get a DVT!
A DVT, or deep venous thrombosis, is a potentially deadly complication of being immobilized for a long time. Basically, the veins in your legs allow blood flow back to your heart. Walking, moving, flexing, and extending all with blood flow from your legs back to your heart. So when you wedge yourself into that window seat for the 14-hour, trans-Pacific flight and tap out for the foreseeable future, you put yourself at risk for a blood clot. This can cause pain and swelling in your calf, thigh, or behind your knee. These blood clots can be deadly if they break loose and travel to your lung causing a pulmonary embolism. The best way to avoid this is to take a stroll every few hours. If you find yourself seated and unable to get up; try to purposefully flex and extend your legs every few hours. More importantly, if you think you have symptoms of a DVT, seek immediate help at an emergency room.
4. Gay Travel Health: Follow your grandmother’s advice.
What would your grandmother tell you to do? She would tell you to make good decisions. Don’t hang out in shady places. Don’t go to stranger’s homes and… be nice to old people. I know it’s your vacation and you want to let loose and have some fun. But don’t leave your good decisions at the baggage drop. At least weekly, I have a patient who comes in concerned about a “sexual indiscretion,” while on vacation, that put him at risk for a sexually transmitted infection. And if you want to really scare yourself, check out this information on the emergence of drug-resistant gonorrhea. Think about it… do you really want a disruptive disease for the rest of your life (or at least until we come up with better antibiotics)?
5. Gay Travel Health: Consider travel insurance.
Many health insurance plans cover something called “Evacuation and Repatriation Coverage.” Sounds serious, huh? Well, that’s because it is! Imagine being injured or becoming seriously ill in a country where the standard of care is not quite up to par. Emergency medical evacuation coverage provides for the cost of “medically necessary” transportation for accidents or illness. This is not medical coverage, in and of itself, but coverage for the cost of transportation. Just think of having to be medivacked off of a cruise in the middle of Asia. That’s gotta cost an arm and a leg, pun intended. If the unthinkable happens and, let’s hope it never does, your family need to bring your remains home, repatriation covers these costs as well.
As usual, this is not to be construed as medical advice. For that, you need to see your medical provider. So go travel and see the world. It’s a great, big planet filled with the most interesting people and the most beautiful things. These and a plethora of experiences waiting to fill your heart and change the way you think about the world! But be sure to always consider your health and make it a priority when you travel.
Check out more of Bart’s work regarding good health with an LGBT focus on his website here!
If you want to learn more about the importance of travel vaccines, check out my article here!
And if you need a little life inspiration, check out my Life Reflections here!
How important is your health when you travel?
Do you always consider your health when planning a trip?
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