In the run-up to the long-awaited year-end holidays, it’s easy to forget about important healthcare issues while planning what to pack for the beach.
But the holiday season is also a time of closed doctors’ offices, over-burdened hospitals and trips to remote areas that may lack medical infrastructure. To ensure a stress-free and healthy holiday, advance health care planning is important, says Sibonile Dube, Head of Communications & Public Affairs, Africa Cluster, at Novartis South Africa.
Here are some tips:
Stock up on important meds: “It’s important to ensure you have enough of your prescription or chronic medication to last the duration of the holiday, as you may have trouble filling your prescription in remote and cross-border holiday destinations,” says Dube. If you’re travelling to other countries, it’s advisable to check with a travel doctor whether your prescribed medicines are permitted in those countries.
Check for adverse effects and interactions: Some medications can increase your susceptibility to sunburn – check your medication package insert or ask your pharmacist about the risks before heading out into the sun unprotected. And if you’re planning to indulge in holiday season drinking, it’s important to check your medication package insert or ask your pharmacist whether drinking alcohol is advisable while on your medication.
Take malaria precautions: If you’re heading to a known malaria area, consult your doctor about anti-malarial medications at least 2 - 3 weeks before your holiday. Some malaria prophylaxis can be taken only days before you enter a malaria area, but consulting your doctor early will allow them to prescribe the most appropriate anti-malarial for you and your family. “You can also reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite by using topical mosquito repellant, covering up and using mosquito netting when you sleep,” says Dube.
Pre-emptive safety: It’s a good idea for patients with chronic health conditions to have a health check before going away, to be sure no health emergency is about to develop. If you’re at risk of a major health event, take your doctor’s details with you, so your travelling companions or emergency responders can easily find them. Pre-emptively locate pharmacies and hospitals near to your holiday destination, so that you can find them quickly in case of emergency. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, speak to your specialist about treatment and coping mechanisms to help you through the festive season – a time when many people are prone to greater levels of stress and depression.
Plan for allergic reactions: Different destinations have their own unique allergens and irritants. “If you or your family members have allergies, remember to pack the necessary emergency treatment, asthma inhalers or anti-histamines in case of accidental exposure while you’re far from home and medical assistance,” says Dube.
Store meds carefully: Your usual medicine safety measures may lapse when you’re living out of a suitcase or camping in the wilds. Make every effort to store all medicines as recommended – usually in a cool, dry place – and to keep them safely out of reach of small children and babies. Don’t decant your medications into another packaging, to avoid mix-ups and dosage mistakes.
Remember eye care: Don’t forget about eye care while away from home. Stock up on a good supply of contact lens solution to maintain your contact lens cleaning routine. And if you’re likely to be out in the sun and wind, or swimming in chlorinated or salt water, take along a good pair of sunglasses to protect against UV exposure and soothing eye drops to take care of red, itchy eyes.
Stock up the first aid kit: Replenish your first aid kit with everything that might be needed to attend to serious emergencies, minor accidents and common ailments. Remember to include bandages, gauze, scissors, tweezers, plasters, topical antiseptic, burn gel, rehydration formula, soothing ointment for insect bites and rashes, antihistamines, OTC nausea and diarrhoea medicine, and painkillers.