Summer is approaching. That means the kids are not in school, the weather is warm and our minds turn to vacations.

If a vacation includes travel, then there is usually significant planning that is required. Are you ready? Do you have health plans worked out, just in case?

As you might expect, while most of us have disaster plans in mind (and, if you are smart, written down) I believe very few of us have contingency plans for health problems when we travel.

So, in my continued efforts to make you consider options, let’s talk about a few issues.

Before you even think about where you are going, you have to ask yourself if you are healthy enough to make the trip.

Are you able tolerate whatever walking is required to get to where you are going? Even if you don’t have to walk, can you stand — can you even sit — for the required time? If not, have you arranged for alternatives, i.e. a wheelchair, if needed?

And this requires a certain amount of honesty on your part. Do not let the desire to go get in the way of reality. I am not talking about climbing Mr. Kilimanjaro, although even frequent mountain climbers can misjudge their abilities.

OK, having considered all of that and having made a decision were to go, now the hard work begins. First, you need to determine what health care services are available at your destination. This is particularly important if you are leaving the country. If you have medical conditions that need special care, this is essential.

Consider what medications you will need on your trip. Don’t forget to take them with you, and don’t think its fine to pack them in your checked baggage. We both know exactly what will happen if you put them in cargo storage on an airplane. The airline may lose only one bag on the flight, but you can guarantee it will be the one piece with your medication in it.

It is also a good idea to carry the names, strengths and doses of the medications you take so, even if they don’t end up in the same city as you, there will be a way to replace them more easily.

Do I have to tell you that you need to consider packing clothing appropriate to the climate where you are going? I don’t think so, but do remember to bring a hat, sunglasses, sun block and sunburn lotion if you are going south. And remember, warm clothing, which can be worn layered, and gloves, warm shoes and sunglasses (sun glare on ice can be severe) if you go north.

Are you planning a trip abroad? It’s a big world out there and much of it is very different from home. There are diseases of all kinds, many of whose names can’t even be easily pronounced. Fortunately, there are immunizations available for many of them. Your health care provider can help here.

Identifying the areas you are going to visit and determining what protection measures you will need and providing them for you will allow you to have a worry-free trip. Most importantly, your provider won’t have to worry about treating your malaria or typhoid fever when you come home.

There is so much more, but I have run out of space. We will talk again about this. The best message I can give you is “bon voyage.”

Dr. Michael M. Warren is Ashbel Smith professor of surgery at University of Texas Medical Branch Division of Urology. Write him at

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