Go west young man!
Or it might as well be east, south, or north. Or young woman, or old man or … okay, you get the picture, we’re talking travel! As pilots we do it a lot. Sometimes it is just around the pattern at the local airfield, maybe a cross-country business trip, a vacation to sunny climates, or maybe ferrying an aircraft across the Atlantic as I discovered a chap I was schmoozing with at the airport the other day is about to do.
When embarking on a trip, I am sure we all make sure we have some spare oil, the appropriate charts, and our wallets or handbags (I don’t know about you, but I have not mustered the courage to get a man bag yet!). But there is something we are not terribly smart at preparing for—our medical needs. Here are some pointers that may prove helpful, garnered from my personal experience as a physician, a pilot, and a dad! These observations are germane whether you are flying yourself or, heaven forbid, traveling with a commercial airline. It almost seems blasphemous for an AOPA member to say that!
First, make sure you have a list of all the medicines you need, print a copy noting the name (generic and trade if listed on the bottle), and dose, and put it with your important papers—when you travel internationally and have to navigate customs, you do not want to have to explain why you have pills and potions in your possession!
Years ago, when I was just a lad and went on vacation with my parents, I stayed in the rental apartment while they went out for the day as I was not feeling well with a bad cough and fever. When mum and dad returned, I complained that the cough medicine I had found had not helped with my hacking. “What cough medicine?” asked Pater. “The one in the bottle labeled ‘Cough Medicine, oh father of mine,’” quoth I. Oops. My brilliant dad had chosen to decant his very, very, very powerful laxative into the smaller bottle that he had found at home. Let’s put it like this, I forgot about my cough for a day or two as I had rather more pressing matters to attend to! The lesson? Under no circumstances place medicines in unlabelled or wrongly labeled containers.
“Good morning, I am checking in for your Flight #007 to Hong Kong, can you please send my luggage to Sydney?” and then the desk agent responds, “I am sorry sir, we cannot do that,” to which you reply “Why not? You did it the last time!” When packing, ensure you keep your medications physically with you—in the world of the airlines, as we know, bags get mislaid on occasion (in my experience every occasion I fly with them). When piloting yourself, keep the meds up front in case a medical emergency strikes in flight. To expand on this point consider how temperature and pressure might impact your drugs—some medicines need to be kept cool, so consider packing in a picnic bag with an ice pack—obviously the TSA will not let you through security with such gels so creative thinking is required; cool the bag itself in the freezer the night before you travel.
Should you run out of medicines overseas, be cautious of counterfeit drugs which at best might be inactive, at worst, dangerous. Spend the extra money for branded drugs and check the packaging for signs of tampering. Consider a global medical services plan—AOPA is currently exploring ways we can support you in this manner when on your travels.
Make sure your vaccinations are up to speed—tetanus is the obvious one, but obtain up-to-date information from your doctor, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), or AOPA for which jabs are routine, recommended, or required. Bear in mind that some countries will not let you through the front door without the appropriate vaccination certificate. And Uncle Sam may not let you back in.
Once you have entered a foreign country, are you aware of other risks to your health that might be present? OK, so when on safari in Africa, most people comprehend the danger a lion, hippopotamus, or zebra (yes, they have an attitude!) might pose. But what about sheep? In certain parts of the world, these seemingly benign ruminants can carry hydatid disease, a parasite that can cause you no end of trouble. Goats in Holland (Q Fever), riverbanks in northern Europe in the summer (Weil’s disease), and farms in Asia (Japanese Encephalitis) are some other examples. Do your research before you leave. U.S. Customs will ask if you have been in contact with farm animals, for instance, when you return.
Almost makes you consider staying at home!
May 12, 2010