WITH summer in full swing, many of us look forward to a fun-filled get-away trip and taking a few precautions can improve the odds for the medically uneventful vacation, says the August 2011 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

International travelers should visit for information about vaccinations, disease outbreaks, and the like, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says the health letter.

Also, on the CDC website, check out the Yellow Book, the CDC’s reference book for international travelers.

But, even if you’re not leaving the United States, it has some useful information about everything, from altitude sickness to insect repellents to sunburn.

The health letter offers some practical, health-related vacation tips suggested by several well-traveled members of the Health Letter editorial board and a few other sources:

• Mind your feet — 1.) Good, sensible shoes are the first line of defense (rubber soles are often recommended), especially if it’s a sightseeing or hiking vacation, to avoid dealing later with plain old sore feet, blisters and more serious conditions like plantar fasciitis;

2.) Moleskin and small Band-Aids can keep blisters from disabling you completely; and 3.) Some new pairs of socks can reduce the friction that causes blisters and provide some extra padding — leave those old, worn-out socks at home.

• Don’t mess with your meds — 1.) Make sure you pack enough of the medications you are currently taking to last the entire vacation — so as not to waste valuable vacation time chasing down your doctor (who may also be away on vacation this time of year) and getting him to call in a prescription to an unfamiliar pharmacy that might be many miles away;

2.) Combining a tempting “drug holiday” with a work holiday is really a very bad idea — abruptly quitting a drug which can cause all sorts of problems that you don’t care to deal with when you should be enjoying a vacation;

3.) the CDC advises leaving your medications in their original containers and making sure they are clearly labeled (when traveling overseas, especially to a developing country) — Customs officials in some countries may ask you to identify your medications and what they’re for;

4.) To be extra cautious, get a doctor’s note on letterhead, listing your medications, including their generic names, and what they’re for;

5.) Pack an ample supply of your medications in your carry-on luggage in case the bags you checked in get lost or arrive late; and

6.) Overseas travelers should find out any possible interactions between their medications and those they might need to take for problems not encountered at home, such as traveler’s diarrhea and malaria.

• Seek sound sleep — Taking sleep aids on vacation is often a good idea because you may find it hard to sleep just by being in a strange bed in a new place, enjoying that tempting extra alcohol and those heavier meals when you’re away, or experiencing jet lag, especially traveling eastward, on an airplane.

For many individuals, over-the-counter antihistamines, like diphenhydramine (sold as Benadryl and as a generic) will do the trick.

However, many of us react strongly to the drug, causing grogginess the next day — try diphenhydramine at home before your vacation, to see how you react to it.

Older individuals are discouraged from using diphenhydramine for sleeping purposes because of the risk of it causing falls and mental confusion.

Melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” is used by many as a sleep aid, often for jet lag, but the FDA doesn’t regulate how melatonin is manufactured so you can’t be sure of the contents of melatonin supplements.

• Screen your sun worship — While sunscreen is readily available in most places, international travelers may want to arrive with enough for their stay. Even individuals planning to go to less exotic locales may want to stock up and keep a small tube for quick occasional application to vulnerable body parts like the nose and ears. Sunscreen is especially important for those who have pale skin and are suddenly exposed to plenty of sunshine.

• Back up your eyesight — No matter where you’re going, bring back-up lenses or glasses — and a photocopy of your vision prescription to make it easier to replace lost or damaged lenses or glasses, should the need arise. Besides, some individuals who wear contact lenses need to switch to glasses when they travel to a city with an air pollution problem.

• Pack the Purell or some other hand sanitizer — This travel tip is particularly important because:

1.) many infections are spread through hand-to-mouth transmission and vacation can put you in some pretty germy places, says the letter.

Also, 2.) you may end up doing things that get your hands dirtier than usual and soap and clean water may be hard to come by, especially if you’re traveling somewhere off the beaten path and, finally;

3.) if you’re flying, you’ll have to abide by a 3.4 ounce (100 milliliter) limit for any containers you pack in your carry-on luggage, concludes the health letter.

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