The holidays are here – a time when family becomes the focus as we take time off work, pack our bags and travel for holiday gatherings. And this year, holiday travel volumes are expected to reach near pre-pandemic levels.
“As we open up more, people want to go back to what they love and that’s travel,” Dat Thanh Ta, MD, (pictured above, right) medical director of AFC Urgent Care – Bon Secours, shares.
While we may be eager to share more quality time with loved ones, what you don’t want to share is germs. The only thing worse than finding coal in your stocking is coming down with COVID-19 for Christmas.
“Just to be safe, I would recommend getting a COVID-19 test before you see your family, especially if you have family members who are elderly or young kids, even if you don’t have any symptoms,” Dr. Dat Ta says. “Depending on where you’re traveling, some places will even require a negative test before you get there.”
On the flip side, Dr. Ta says you should also consider getting tested again upon your return, especially if your time away includes a large event or big gathering where someone shows even the most minor of symptoms.
“You don’t want to accidentally bring things back into your house, into work,” he adds. “As many as 15 to 20 percent of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic. So, that’s the dangerous part of COVID – you can spread the disease and nobody would know unless you test.”
One of the most important parts of your trip actually happens before you ever step outside. Not properly packing and preparing before travel at this time can lead to frustration, and even ruin your holiday fun.
“One of the things we see a lot in urgent care and the emergency departments is people who are visiting from out of town and don’t have all of their medical information with them,” Dr. Dat Ta says. “So, if you ask for their history, they may know they take medication but can’t tell you what. This is a big problem because it’s extremely important information to know so we can best take care of you. We need to know there won’t be any interactions with medications we may have to prescribe.”
Dr. Dat Ta recommends making a list of all your medical conditions, allergies and medications that you can take with you everywhere you go, even if it’s just saved on your phone. And speaking of medications, please don’t forget to pack those!
“We see lots of folks who visit that forgot all their medicine at home or left their most important medicine at home,” he adds.
Packing twice the amount of medication you’d need for the time you’re scheduled to be away is a good rule of thumb. So, if your trip is expected to last one week, take two weeks’ worth of medication as a backup plan.
Another important thing to always have? Your COVID-19 vaccination card (or at least a photo of it). You should also do some research about the place you’re traveling to, especially if it’s outside of the country, as other vaccinations may also be a good idea to get before you go. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) often lists travel guidelines on their website that can be a good resource.
Dr. Dat Ta shares that overseas trips may also add to the list of items you’ll want to include in your suitcase.
“The bacteria in the food and drinks in another country may be different than what your body is used to, so I always recommend people who travel bring Imodium or some type of diarrheal medication with them. You also want to make sure everything you eat is fully cooked, because some cultures do prepare their food a little differently. And bringing a water bottle is always a great idea. Face masks and hand sanitizer, too.”
No matter where you’re headed for the holidays, whether its close by or a world away, the bottom line is it never hurts to check in with your primary care provider before leaving.
“They can remind you of all the important things you should pack or take with you, and who knows – they may have some advice you’re unaware of,” Dr. Dat Ta says.