Travel Health: What’s Up, Doc?

Traveling can be tough on your body. We interviewed five specialists for their travel-wellness tips.

By Hannah Wallace | Illustration by Francesco Bongiorni

Travel-medicine practitioner

David R. Shlim, M.D., president, International Society of Travel Medicine; private practice, Jackson Hole, WY

When traveling outside the developed world, consult a travel-medicine practitioner well before your trip. “They’ll tell you which immunizations make sense and which diseases you may be exposing yourself to that may be preventable,” says Shlim, who ran a clinic in Nepal for 15 years. It’s always a good idea to pack an antibiotic*, he says. To find a travel-medicine practitioner near you, go to istm.org.

Dermatologist

Chris G. Adigun, Aesthetic Solutions, Chapel Hill, NC

“Sun protection, sun protection, sun protection!” Adigun says. Packing a broad-spectrum waterproof sunscreen is smart—Adigun recommends SPF 30 or higher—but sun-protective clothing is even more effective. “It doesn’t wear off, and it doesn’t require reapplying,” she says. Adigun suggests buying clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50.

Optometrist

Dora Adamopoulos, Eye2Eye Optometry Corner, Alexandria, VA; medical advisor to the Vision Council

Just as sun can wreak havoc on your skin, it can damage your eyes, too, causing everything from cornea burns (a painful condition that can lead to temporary blindness) to cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer of the eye or eyelid. The single most important thing you can do to protect your eyes, Adamopoulos says, is wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. Although it may seem obvious, she suggests ensuring that they fit properly.

Podiatrist

Jacqueline Sutera, City Podiatry, New York City

It’s fine to unearth your flip-flops and strappy sandals for vacation, but consider packing sneakers, too, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of sightseeing, hiking or other physical activities. “Pack shoes that are appropriate for the type of vacation you’re going on,” Sutera says. Many companies—Aerosoles, Birkenstock and Clarks, for example—now make chic “comfort shoes.” But no matter the brand, your shoes should have three things: thick rubber soles (for shock absorption), good arch support and plenty of cushioning.

Acupuncturist and integrative- and functional-medicine practitioner

Frank Lipman, M.D., author of The New Health Rules: Simple Changes to Achieve Whole Body Wellness

“I pack my own food for the plane,” Lipman says. His favorite carry-on snacks? Trail mix, hard-boiled eggs, an avocado and salad. “Airplane travel is sedentary, so you don’t need a heavy, hard-to-digest meal,” he says. Lipman also takes a probiotic starting a few days before his trip. He suggests buying one that contains 20 billion to 50 billion live organisms per dose—with a combination of various strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.* Finally, he always packs an eye mask and earplugs. “So I can sleep in complete darkness and silence.”

  • *Consult your physician before taking any medication or supplements. Use all medications or supplements as directed.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Spring 2016