Health Watch -- Travel Safely

Health Watch is a Public Service of the   Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

When you take a family vacation, it's a lot more fun if everyone stays healthy during the trip.

Although news headlines have made us aware of the dangers of catching an illness while traveling, SARS isn't the only threat. There are still travel alerts about severe acute respiratory syndrome in some parts of the world, but unless your family is traveling to those places, it's probably not your primary concern.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say there are other precautions to take to keep your family healthy while traveling.

Dr. Daniel Skiest, a UT Southwestern infectious diseases specialist, says before you leave, make sure children are up-to-date on routine vaccinations, especially on tetanus shots. Check to see if there are additional vaccinations required or recommended for the area you're visiting if you're going overseas.

To prevent blood clots, try to keep the blood flowing. When people sit a long time in cramped places, blood clots can form that could be fatal if they get to the lungs. This is sometimes called "economy class syndrome." You can prevent it by getting up and walking around every so often during long plane trips and by stopping regularly to stretch your legs during long car trips. You'll also feel better after a plane trip if you drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol during the flight.

Prevent upset stomach by drinking bottled water and beverages when you visit an underdeveloped country. Eat only cooked food, and avoid food sold by street vendors.