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  • James Tippett MD

Tips for Senior Travelers

Today’s seniors are healthier, more active and more adventurous than ever before. That means they are also traveling more than ever before, to visit grandkids, to go hunting and fishing, or to take a trip overseas. But even if you’re in excellent shape, the physical changes that come with age present new challenges and obstacles. So here are some tips to make travel easier, more fun and safer.


Don’t trust over the counter drugs overseas. You never know what you’re going to get. Always carry these basic OTC drugs with you when you travel: antacids (Prilosec or Pepcid), anti-diarrheal (Pepto-Bismol liquid), sunscreen, Mucinex (guaifenesin), hydrocortisone cream, motion sickness medicine (Dramamine, dimenhydramine), antihistamines (Benadryl, diphenhydramine), and insect repellent. And remember, if you’re going to a sunny locale, be sure to ask your doctor if your prescription medicines cause increased sensitivity to the sun.


Create a medical information form to carry in your wallet or passport, including:

Your name, address and phone number; friends and family who should be contacted in an emergency; personal physician and dentist contact; current medications including OTC; known drug and food allergies; and the name and number of your medical insurance company.


Ask friends who recently visited your destination what they wished they had taken with them. Facebook or the local blog works great for this. Remember, Medicare will not cover you outside the United States, Canada, or Mexico, and if you are a North American Country, it will only pay to get you to the nearest hospital, no matter how inadequate that hospital may be. If you need to be evacuated to a more appropriate facility, it’s at your expense. Purchasing additional insurance might be a good idea.


Take more prescription medicine than you think you’ll need, at least an extra week’s worth. Ask your doctor for duplicate prescriptions in case your pills are lost or stolen. Be sure to put your pills in your carry-on, not your checked baggage. You’re less likely to lose them that way.


Adjust your schedule of prescription medicine to account for time zones. An easy way to do this is to carry an extra watch set to “home time”. If you’re susceptible to motion sickness, the best location in a boat is amidships, the best location in an airplane is over the wing. Choose an aisle seat on the airplane so that you can easily get up and periodically move about to prevent clots in the legs. Most people have problems with swelling in the legs when traveling, particularly on long trips. To prevent this, wearing knee high graduated support stockings is highly recommended. Typical pressure support is 20-24 mmHg.


If you take insulin, carry a prescription for your syringes. Many states and countries will not sell them to you over the counter. If you take nitro for your heart, make sure the pills or patches are fresh. They lose their potency over time and the nitro pills must be kept in the brown bottle to prevent deterioration. Never wear new shoes or hiking boots on vacation. Take a few weeks to break them in first unless you want blisters, a sure vacation killer.


If you develop cold symptoms, use Mucinex and saline nasal spray to help clear mucous and do not take drying agents such as antihistamines and cold and sinus meds. Diarrhea is best treated with liberal amounts of Pepto-Bismol. Take a big gulp of the liquid after each loose stool and remember that the bismuth in the product will make bowel movements black. Also, increase your fluid intake with electrolyte solutions and broth.


Bug bites and bee stings are best treated by applying meat tenderizer (Accent) to reduce pain and swelling followed by hydrocortisone cream.

Hopefully, these travel tips will make your next vacation or business trip a more pleasant one. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


Dr. Tippett is the founder of Comprehensive Quality Healthcare Providers, a concierge internal medicine practice located at 1210 Commerce Dr. Suite 106 Greensboro, Ga. 30642. He can be reached at 706-510-3659. Visit his webpage at www.drtippett.com


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