It is important to stay healthy during overseas travel. Older travellers may need to take extra precautions to protect their health, particularly those with pre-existing health conditions.
Whatever your destination, adequate travel health insurance is essential for older travellers. Existing medical conditions, including recent surgery must be specified in advance. If you have one or more existing health conditions, remember that even with insurance, the standard of medical care is only as good as the medical facilities available.
Diabetes, urinary incontinence, chronic airway disease, and many other ongoing medical conditions shouldn’t stop you travelling abroad although they do make advance planning essential. Discuss any concerns you may have regarding the possible impact of international travel and your health condition with your travel doctor or GP.
Sitting in airports and cramped aircraft seats for long periods can increase the risk of potentially dangerous blood clots caused by deep vein thrombosis or DVT. Walk around regularly whenever possible and exercise your lower legs while seated. If time allows, plan stopovers on long-haul trips.
Carry adequate supplies of all regular medication as familiar brands may not be available overseas. Carry enough extra medication for unexpected delays (See page 60). You may wish to ask your pharmacist about making up medication packs for you if you are on multiple medications.
Always carry your Travel Doctor-TMVC Personal Medical Authorisation, included on page 16 of this booklet, along with any documentation from your GP or specialist detailing your current medical status and all medications you take. On arrival, keep these documents handy as customs officials may request to see them. If you’ve had cardiac treatment in the past, also bring a copy of your most recent ECG.
Having access to a digital copy of these records is also useful in case of lost baggage. Scan copies and email these to yourself so they can be accessed later, if needed.
Angina and chronic airways disease (emphysema) can cause breathlessness, which may be worse in aircraft cabins and at high-altitude destinations. With advance notice, most airlines can provide supplemental oxygen during your flight.
Advancing age is often accompanied by a reduced capacity for exercise. Poor balance and reduced stability make falls more likely and there is a greater risk of accidents in unfamiliar surroundings. Comfortable shoes for the flight and during your stay are a must.
Hearing and vision impairment can cause confusion in unfamiliar situations, particularly in busy airports with frequent loudspeaker announcements. Allow more time for transits and, if possible, plan stopovers.
Hot climates can aggravate low blood pressure, particularly if you’re taking anti-hypertensive or Parkinson’s disease medications. Sunburn is also a greater risk on thin or aging skin. Pack SPF 50+ sunscreen and insect repellent.
Older people frequently have reduced stomach acidity, increasing the risk of traveller’s diarrhoea and gut infections. Discuss this with your Travel Doctor or GP, who can recommend appropriate medications for these and other common travel health problems.
While in general, there are few health risks associated with cruise ship holidays, any travel health advice should always be provided on an individual basis taking into account the personal health of the traveller, and possible activities on shore trips.
Cruising is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry in Australia, providing options to visit many international as well as Australian ports. Ship activities can be fun and sporty if you choose, and being fit to start is helpful. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, ensure they are being optimally managed before you go. See your treating doctor for advice or a check-up.