Travel Tips: Health Tips for the Elderly
As you age, health conditions become a little bit complicated and hence require extra care, especially when it concerns overseas travel to foreign shores.
- Consult your doctor for any precautions you need to take for any pre-existing conditions.
- Ensure your vaccines are up-to-date six weeks prior to your travel date. As a person ages, he/she needs more time to develop immunity after a vaccine shot or may not develop as strong an immunity as a youngster does. So, it is highly recommended to get the vaccines well in advance.
- Protection from vaccines you received when younger decreases with age and this could increase your susceptibility to some diseases. Moreover, some childhood diseases such as measles/mumps/rubella are more prevalent in some countries. Discuss your immunization history with your health care provider before you travel.
- Get a Tetanus booster shot
- Visit a health care provider and consult your embassy or travel agent to find out which, if any, particular vaccines are required or recommended for your travel destination.
- The Yellow Fever Vaccine, which some countries require you to be immunized against Yellow Fever virus, should be given cautiously to travellers over 60, as they are more prone to develop serious side effects from it. Travellers afflicted with certain pre-existing conditions are not advised to have this vaccine. Consultation with a doctor to discuss the pros- and cons- of the vaccine is essential prior to your travel.
- If your health care provider determines you should not receive the vaccine for medical reasons, he or she will provide you with a medical waiver.
- Senior citizens are prone to developing critical cases of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases. If travelling to an area where malaria is prevalent, consult your doctor to determine the requirement of anti-malaria medication.
- Care should be taken with anti-malaria medications, as they can react with any medications you are taking for pre-existing conditions.
- Use protective clothing and mosquito-repellent patches, creams or solutions to avoid diseases caused by mosquito bites. Mosquito-borne diseases include dengue, malaria, Yellow Fever, Dengue, Rift Valley, Arboviral Encephalitides and chikungunya
- If you develop a fever while travelling or after your trip (for up to three months or longer), seek medical attention immediately. Tell your health care provider that you have recently travelled to an area with malaria.
- If travelling to a high altitude, ascend slowly to give your body time to acclimatize. While compared to children, elders are less likely to develop high-altitude sickness; however, the lower concentrations of oxygen can have more of a tiring effect on them.
- As the body ages, the ability to withstand excessive heat or cold decreases.
- When travelling to places hotter than you are used to, take extra caution to avoid dehydration and heat strokes. Due to decreased sweat production and certain medications, older travellers are more prone to developing non-exercise-related heat stroke.
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke (confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea). Seek medical attention if you think you are developing heat stroke.
Take some time to get used to the heat before engaging in any vigorous physical activity.
- When travelling to cold places keep yourself warm and avoid exposure. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypothermia (shivering [although this may stop if the hypothermia is severe], confusion, slow and shallow breathing) and frostbite (pale, waxy, numb skin). Seek medical attention if you think you are developing hypothermia or frostbite.
- Older people are more vulnerable to falls and are more likely to sustain serious injury if they fall.
- Take care when travelling; avoid travelling at night or through poorly lit paths, stairs and halls.
- Travellers with limited mobility or impaired balance might consider using a walking aid to prevent falls.
- Older travellers with pre-existing conditions have a higher risk of developing complications from travellers’ diarrhoea. Prevent it by putting into practice, safe food and water precautions and washing your hands with a disinfectant soap and water frequently. Take along hand sanitizer gels for places where clean water is a problem.
- Consult your doctor for determining the additional precautions that you should take to prevent travellers’ diarrhoea.
- If you still get travellers’ diarrhoea, prevent dehydration by drinking oral rehydration solution (ORS) or other fluids.
- Seek medical attention if the diarrhoea :
- is bloody;
- is accompanied by a high fever, jaundice (yellow skin), or persistent vomiting; or
- if dehydration does not improve despite the use of ORS.
- Travellers under medication for pre-existing conditions should bring more than enough medication to last your entire trip.
- If you wear glasses or contacts, bring an extra pair or the prescription.