We’re well into the holiday season, which means people are traveling all over the place to take their vacations, visit their families, and escape the daily grind for a little while.
But the part that no one tells you about is the number of hazards you are exposed to, simply by choosing to leave home:
Catching a Disease on the Plane or at the Destination
Groups of people contained in close quarters can expose you to new bacteria and viruses, which spread alarmingly fast on vehicles like airplanes. In fact, air travel is a key component in the spread of the seasonal flu each year and has been responsible for several pandemic events. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date because different regions of the world struggle with different pathogens and being vaccinated against them can mean the difference between a restful vacation and an extended hospital stay.
A relatively recent phenomenon, which has coincided with the rise of smartphones and social networks, is the increase in selfie-related injuries and deaths. Some people will stop at nothing to get the perfect selfie, even if it means getting dangerously close to wildlife, perching on the edge of a cliff or standing on active train tracks. Many organizations have closed parts of their attractions after people began engaging in risky behaviors to take selfies. Many of these tragic deaths and injuries could have been prevented if people had been following the rules at their destinations, so travel agencies have begun to warn tourists that taking precautions and following advisories can save lives, and that the selfies just aren’t worth it.
If you spend an extended period of time completely stationary, you run the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. These are blood clots that typically form in the deep veins of the legs which can then travel to other areas of the body, such as the lungs. This can cause a pulmonary embolism, which leads to death if not treated quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers who spend extended amounts of time in a car or airplane remember to keep hydrated and move as much as they can. Gentle stretching and flexing the muscles of the legs have been shown to help prevent the condition.
It may come as a surprise to no one that jet engines are loud. But that noise isn’t limited to outside the plane. Studies have shown that in-flight noise levels average between 80 to 105 decibels, which can cause hearing damage after long periods of time. The noise is often worse at the window seat and in parts of the plane that are above or behind the engines, because of the combined noise of the wind and the engines running. Commercial airlines have been researching ways to make the cabins quieter, and some newer airplane models, such as the Airbus A380, have introduced innovative insulating and structural changes that reduce noise levels. Until then, many airlines recommend that passengers use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to reduce their exposure to high-decibel noise.
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of death for American tourists and expatriates the world over. This is because the road infrastructure and driving norms can be dramatically different in regions around the world, especially in developing nations. Tourists typically don’t have to have a driver’s license to operate vehicles like motorized scooters or motorcycles, which leave the driver extremely unprotected in the event of a collision. Travel agencies and the CDC recommend that drivers and pedestrians exhibit extreme caution on unfamiliar roadways, and avoid risky travel behaviors such as getting on over-full buses, riding on the roof of a vehicle or walking in the street.
We didn’t point these out to completely turn you off traveling. In fact, studies show that travel for leisure gives a big boost to your heart and brain health. But the key word here is leisure, and if you’re running around stressed because you forgot something or getting sick at the hotel, your vacation will end up being a lot less restful than you intended.
So take our advice, and be sure to get your vacation contingency plan together before you get on the plane!
At AFC/Doctors Express, soon to be AFC Urgent Care, you can get a general check-up before you leave in case you are already feeling a cold or the flu coming on.