Five Tips for Healthier Business Travel.
-- Frank Gillingham, MD
Here are five tips to help make your business travel healthier.
- Slow the Pace Down. Traveling is stressful, even when everything goes smoothly.
International travel can mean a struggle even with the simplest tasks like finding a
restroom or making a phone call. Jet lag doesn't help. Of course, business travel can
be particularly exhausting, even domestically. So try to slow down. Shorten a trip,
plan some down-time during your trip, even cancel a trip in favor of a conference call.
You'll be amazed how much fatigue and stress can limit your effectiveness. Slowing down
your pace might increase your productivity, even as you decrease your stress.
- Do some simple research. Instead of waiting for an incident, learn a little
about the travel health situation in the destinations you plan to visit. What health
risks await you in Bangkok, London or Las Vegas? What hospital would you use in the
event of an emergency? How would you find a doctor? How would you describe your
medical condition in the local language? This kind of basic homework is particularly
important if you're traveling internationally, where you should also check into security
issues. Other good sources of information are the CDC and the
U.S. State Department.
- Buy Travel Insurance. Talk to your benefits administrator or
manager about your company's health coverage for traveling employees. Your
managed care plan might be adequate at home, but it probably provides little or
no coverage when you're away. In addition, it's unlikely that your company's
plan includes medical evacuation or assistance services, which help arrange
evacuation with a creditable air-ambulance company. If your company's
arrangements in this area are inadequate, consider purchasing, or requesting
that the company purchase on your behalf, a supplemental policy.
- See your Doctor and Dentist. Like the television ad says, you're
supposed to change your motor oil every 3,500 miles, but do you? Or do you push it?
Many people are the same way with routine medical and dental care. The annual physical
becomes a five year pilgrimage. Just as you took your car in for coolant, tire pressure
checks and an oil change before the family's summer vacation, take yourself into
the doctor and dentist sometime this fall. Get all the basics--blood pressure,
cholesterol, prostate screen, mammogram etc. Tell the doctor you do alot of
traveling--he or she might suggest Hepatitis A and B vaccines. Don't be
afraid of what they find in their screening test--in these days of diagnostic
wizardry every adult has something that needs to be looked after (do
you know anyone who doesn't?). The good news is that the problems doctors
look for are almost always easier to handle the earlier they're discovered.
Be sure to have a dental examination as well, to get those marginal teeth straightened
out. As reluctant as you might be to do so, remember how unpleasant it is to lose a
night of sleep on an important business trip because of a horrendous toothache.
- Safeguard your travel documents. Make copies. Keep track of your immunizations. Remember to leave a copy of your travel itinerary at home and with your neighbors. Keep your passport in a safe place (e.g. a safe deposit box) when you're not using it. Keep a record of your travelers checks and credit cards and write down the numbers of the three credit bureaus you must contact in the event one of your cards is stolen (contacting the credit card company is not enough). The three are: (1) Equifax 800.685.1111, (2) Experian 888.397.3742, (3) Trans Union 800.916.8800 (please note: 800 numbers usually don't work from overseas).
Bonus Tip. Five seemed like a nice round number but here's a sixth one:
- Pack a basic first aid kit and take it with you--or add some basic
health items to your travel dopp kit. Remember that drugs names are different
in different countries so you may have difficulty finding a product you trust
if you're traveling internationally.
For basic business travel, I'd bring along
an agent for minor aches, pains and fever (acetaminophen or ibuprofen, for example).
Also bring diphenhydramine (Benadryl)--you might not be allergic to anything but there's
always a first time, and it is also an excellent sleep aid for many people.
Bring Dramamine or Meclizine for motion sickness and something for an acid stomach
or heartburn--Maalox, TUMS or something similar. For international travel, especially
to developing countries, the list
of medications you should carry is longer and includes some prescription medicines
you'll need from your doctor. More on this in a later article.