Leave healthy, return happy.
Travel health tips for happy holidays !
You've earned a much needed holiday! The better prepared you are, the more enyoable your holiday will be. To find useful health travel tips, consult our special pages prior to your departure. Bon Voyage !
Planning your vacation : basic security measures
Do we have to get vaccinated? Yes, you
As providers of travel insurance for over 70 yeard, we have
seen too many travellers affected by illnesses that could have been
prevented. Some travellers were unfortunately repatriated by our assistance services right at the beginning of
Once you have decided on a travel destination, visit a travel clinic to find out which vaccines are mandatory or recommended. Here is the list of illnesses that can be prevented by a vaccine.
- chicken pox (varicella)
- tick-borne encephalitis
- German measles (rubella)
- Haemophilus influenzae type b disease (Hib)
- Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
- HPV (human paillomavirus)
- Japanese encephalitis
- meningitis (meningococcal disease)
- pneumonia (pneumococcal disease)
- typhoid fever
- whooping cough (pertussis)
- yellow fever
Although cholera, yellow fever and both hepatitis A and B are the most frequent, any of these illnesses may occur during a trip. Make sure your children are also vaccinated and ask your doctor if you are still protected by any previous vaccinations received in previous years.
Only you can take the proper precautions for a worry-free trip.
Seek information well before your departure
Some reliable sources for useful travel information are your
travel agent, travel guide, or Blue Cross. For a worry-free trip,
seek information on the foreign destination and the sanitary
precautions to observe.
|Click here to download WELL ON YOUR WAY the excellent health guide for Canadian travellers provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada|
Consult with your doctor prior to planning a trip. After a medical check-up, your physician should warn you about any activity and foods to avoid in a foreign country. Short distances and frequent stops are advisable for women in this condition.
First Aid Kit
Your first-aid kit should contain everything you need to take care of minor injuries: bandages, compresses and adhesive tape, scissors, disinfectant, antibiotic ointment and a sling. Note that if you carry your kit in your hand luggage, customs security systems will detect any metal accessory, such as scissors or nail file and wil confiscate it.
To ensure your complete first-aid kit makes the trip, put it in luggage that will be checked and carried in the baggage hold.
Travelling with a chronic illness
Consult your doctor at least four months prior to your departure to be sure that your illness is well controlled. If you are 55 years of age or older, consult your doctor at least seven months in advance. Neglecting to do so could lead to a denial of your claim by your insurer.
If you take any medication on a regular basis, you must carry proof of need. Proofs include a copy of the prescription, proper identification on the pharmacy label indicating the contents, dosage and a Drug Identification Number (DIN), and possibly a note of explanation from your doctor. This information is essential, especially if your medication is lost or stolen or when travelling in a country that is particularly sensitive about drugs.
Bring more medication than you will require. That way, you'll be well supplied if your return should be delayed.
Never place all of your medications in the same bottle in an effort to make more room in your luggage. Customs officials can be very strict about this, and your medication should remain in the original labelled bottle stating the dosage and the name of the doctor who prescribed it. Ask your pharmacist to provide you with double prescription refills in separate labelled bottles. Keep one in your luggage and the other one in your hand luggage. Should your luggage be delayed or lost, you'll at least have enough of your medication for a few days.
Do you suffer from diabetes, asthma or epilepsy ? A MedicAlert bracelet could save your life. These inscribed bracelets immediately inform medical staff tending to any pre-existing condition and they can then consult a database accessible on a 24/7 basis. For information, go to: http://www.medicalert.ca
A medical certificate is mandatory to attest that you need to carry syringes for self-injection of your medication. Make sure you have a good supply of syringes. You will also need a medical certificate if you take anti-migraine drugs or any medications that contain narcotics.
Going on a cruise ? People whose health is fragile may want to consider a flu vaccination before they depart. Ask your doctor.
Walking barefoot on the beach or elsewhere is risky, especially if you suffer from diabetes. Always wear sandals to prevent injuries from sharp stones, broken glass or parasites.
Medical clinics abroad: If you need to know the location of health centres abroad that will be able to provide you with services regarding a particular need or condition, ask us prior to your departure. We will ensure that you have access to the services you need, as close to your vacation destination as possible.
Travel illnesses and accidents : how to avoid them
Motion or car sickness arises when you travel in any type of vehicle, although rare when travelling by plane. The initial symptoms are sweating, paleness, hyper-salivation, headaches followed by nausea, vomiting, vertigo and weakness. It is very unpleasant although not serious. To prevent motion sickness :
Get a good night sleep prior to travelling
Eat a well balanced meal which includes solids : avoid white wine, coffee and soft drinks
Keep head movements to minimum
Look ahead, at the skyline
Avoid tobacco or cooking odours
On a boat, choose a location near the centre of gravity
In a plane, choose a seat in the middle section of the aircraft
Many products are available without prescription in different formulas, even for children. However, consult your pharmacist to ensure that the product does not interfere with any other medication you may already be taking, and that exporting this over-the-counter drug is permitted in the country you are visiting.
If you relieve your little aches, pains and allergies with over-the-counter drugs, make sure they are permitted in the foreign destination. Many new products are forbidden in other countries, even the United States. Please read the information given by the Canada Foreign Affairs and International Trade Department Web site at : http://www.voyage.gc.ca/Consular-e/drugs_travel_menu-e.html Failure to do so could lead to the seizure of your products or more serious problems.
Traveller's diarrhea. Even if the water at your destination is drinkable, your system may not be used to the bacteria it contains. Don't risk drinking tap water. Drink only bottled water, and only from bottles that have been opened in front of you. Moreover, don't use ice cubes made with water whose source is unknown to you. They could also make you sick.
Avoid salad bars and any food that may have been washed with tap water. Also avoid raw foods than you cannot peel : grapes, berries, etc. Carefully peel other fresh fruits and vegetables. The golden rule is : PEEL IT, COOK IT OR LEAVE IT.
NEVER EAT food bought from street vendors as there are no reassurances regarding the food preperation methods or cleanliness of these vendors.
If you feel nauseated or if you have any symptoms of gastro-enteritis after drinking water or eating food that may have been contaminated, GO IMMEDIATELY to the nearest hospital.
Be careful at the beach. There may be a reason why no one else is swimming in the area. Ask for information about the safe places to swim.
Ask if there are jellyfish in the area. Never go swimming when jellyfish are around.
Beware of lakes. As a general rule, avoid swimming in fresh water lake. They often contain parasites that can penetrate the skin.
Walking barefoot on the beach or elsewhere is risky. Prevent foot injuries, especially if you suffer from diabetes. Always wear sandals to prevent injuries from sharp stones, broken glass or parasites.
Do not risk water shock! A common and dangerous phenomenon, it can occur when your body, heated by the sun, comes abruptly in contact with cold water. It can cause a violent reaction that could lead to a heart attack. Instead of diving headfirst into the water to cool off, enter gradually !
Sun smart !
As Canadians we are pretty used to dealing with temperatures of minus 30ºC.However, when it's 30°C above, we may run into trouble. Sometimes, we even take dangerous risks.
Be aware of as you are of the cold !
- Take the time to adapt when you are travelling to hot climates (just as you should when summer starts at home). Take it easy and avoid any strenuous physical activities for the two first days, especially during the sun's peak hours.
- People who live in hot climates know how to better function in hot temperatures. If nobody is working between noon and 3 p.m., there is probably a reason. Slow down. Remember, you're on vacation !
- Freshen up often ! Showers or a dip in the pool or in the sea to lower your body temperature can prevent heat stroke.
- Wear light, pale-coloured, full-length clothing, as clothing protects you better than any sunscreen. White reflects the heat, black will absorb it. Cotton, linen or any natural fibres are the most comfortable fabrics under the sun, and the tighter the weave, the better the protection from the sun.
- Always keep your head protected! Wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your ears and neck, and wear quality sun glasses that will filter UVA and UVB rays.
- Prevent dehydration that can lead to serious health problems. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink plenty of water. Your body requires upto two litres of water per day, and if you play sports, especially in the sun, you may require upto six litres per day. Avoid alcohol, especially beer, which is a diuretic. Moreover, mosquitoes are attracted to people with alcohol in their blood stream.
- Children and elderly people are more fragile and
can dehydrate faster and suffer heat strokes more easily.
Encourage them to drink water often.
- Make sure that children bathe in the pool or in the sea to lower their body temperature, or have them shower often.
- Dress them in light, pale-coloured cotton clothes and protect exposed skin with a good sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Insist they wear a broad rimmed hat — not a baseball cap, which doesn't protect the ears or the neck — as well as sandals.
- Children benefit from wearing sunglasses just as adults do.
- Sunscreen is a necessity. Especially for
children, as skin cancer may take 15 or more years to develop.
- We recommend a minimum SPD of 15 for Adults and SPF 30 for children.
- Look for the Canadian Dermatology Association logo when selecting a sunscreen product. Only products that meet the Association's quality standards can bear its logo.
- Make sure your sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays, and don't wait until you are on the beach to apply your sunscreen. Apply it 20 minutes prior to sun exposure.
- Bathing may remove most of your protection. Reapply sunscreen after bathing, or use waterproof sunscreen.
- Don't forget to cover the sensitive parts of your face, such as your ears, nose, lips and eyelids. Use hypoallergenic products. Take extra precaution not to burn your eyelids : your eyes could swell shut, as a result.
- Remember that water, sand and concrete reflect the sun, increasing the danger of overexposure. On the beach or at the pool, use a sunshade.
- Desert travel. If you are travelling through
desert areas at any time of the year, travel with:
- Warm clothes (temperatures can drop below freezing at night, even in summer months);
- A blanket;
- Cereal bars;
- At least a gallon of water per person.
- Photoallergic dermatitis is an allergic
reaction to the sun : a rash appears on the exposed skin,
resulting in an itching sensation. If you have suffered from
this condition, or if you are ultra-sensitive to the sun:
- Avoid sun exposure during peak hours: between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 45 at all times.
- Some substances may diminish the sun's effect. Consult your
doctor AND your pharmacist : an antihistamine may help with this
- Some substances contained in medications
provoke reactions to the sun exposure. They
are photo-sensitive, which means they react to the
- Avoid wearing perfumes or perfumed body lotions.
- Many drugs may provoke skin reactions: antibiotics, antidepressants, birth control pills, some medications for heart conditions and anxiety, and dermatological preparations. As an extra precaution, consult your pharmacist.
Travelling with children
Useful tips to help you plan a pleasant trip for the whole family.
- When making travel arrangements, always consider the age of your child. Although a trip to Disney World is fun at any age, young children with short attention spans do tire quickly. Ensure you plan frequent rest periods to so that everyone is able to truly enjoy their stay.
Travelling by car
- Don't take for granted that a baby seat or booster will be provided with your rental car at your destination. Depending on your destination, a baby seat that meets North American standards may not be available. It is recommended that you take your baby seat or booster with you.
- Your vacation begins when you leave, not when you get there. If you are a CAA-Québec member, ask for TripTiks, a personalized itinerary. Study your itinerary before you leave, so won't have to constantly look at your map.
- Getting there should be half the fun for everyone. Visit the library or the book store and get some books or cassettes the whole family will enjoy. Plus, the "co-pilot" can play "entertainment organizer" for the ride instead of reading the map and itinerary.
- Give yourself more time to drive to your destination than you would if you were driving on business. If you and your children can stretch your legs from time to time, the trip will seem shorter. Plan a refreshment stop every two hours. Drivers should do stretching exercises … and the entire family can join in. This prevents driver's fatigue.
- Bring snacks and unsweetened and caffeine-free beverages. Fresh fruits, whole-wheat crackers, cheese, nuts, raisins and bottled water, especially if it is hot.
- Keep toys, games, books and music in the car. If the kids are busy, the driver can better focus on the road ahead.
- If your children are used to taking a nap, time your departure in accordance with naptime to keep them in their regular routine.
- Always avoid smoking in the car, especially if your children get car sick.
Travelling by plane
- Although major airlines allow pregnant women as passengers until the 36th week of a normal pregnancy, the majority of travel insurance contracts will only cover pregnancy up to the 31st week inclusively.
- Children must now have a passport of their own. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has recommended this security measure to prevent kidnapping. If your children are already registered on your passport, it remains valid until its expiration date. However, if you send them alone on a flight, they require their own personal passport.
- An adult who travels alone with his or her children should carry a certified letter signed by the notary and the other parent or legal guardian to authorize the trip in order to avoid any problems at customs. The certificate must state the children's names, as well as the name and address of the absent parent.
- Advise the Airline carrier that you'll be travelling with your children. Major airlines have special programs to help children enjoy their flight. Travel agents and airline employees can help you get the most comfortable seats. Ask for them when purchasing your tickets.
- Make sure children have something to drink during take-off and landing to prevent blocked ears due to cabin-pressure change.
- A child under two years of age can travel on your lap, however for children over two, they will be required to sit in a regular seat. If your baby weighs less than 25 pounds and cannot sit by himself, you may request a "sky cot" but you need to request it as soon as you make your reservations. Sky cots are only available on large planes and only in certain seats.
- If anyone in your family has food allergies or if your child is a little picky, you may order a special meal including "kid's meals" as airlines offer a variety of meals for special diets. However, these requests are required 24 hours in advance.
Are we there yet!
- Give your children a card on which you have written the phone number and address where you plan to stay. Make sure they have it with them at all times. If they get lost, they will be able to contact you.
- Let your children be a part of the planning of your daily activities. This way, they will be happy to participate in any activity.
- Each day, set a meeting place and time, in case someone gets lost.
- Show everyone how to use the phone at the foreign destination and make sure that they know the name and the phone number of someone to reach if you get separated.
Comfort tips for Snowbirds
Are you a frequent traveller? Here are a few tips for our "Snowbird" travellers to make your trip even more enjoyable.
You may be able to travel even if you have a chronic illness or medical condition. Using the Blue Cross medical questionnaire, your doctor can provide our Medical Director with an assessment of your health condition. If your illness is under control, it could be covered too. Your are under no obligation whatsoever to fill out a medical questionnaire. If you choose not to do so, be aware that any pre-existing condition will not be covered, however you will be covered for accident and sudden illness not related to your condition. For more details, call us at 1-800-361-5706.
Chronic illness ? Bring more medication than you normally require. Bring an extra one-week supply. In the Western world, drugs are similar but they are not always the same.
Fragile condition ? It doesn't mean you can't travel, however you do have to take extra precautions. Consult your physician as soon as you decide on a destination. Maybe a flu shot would be necessary in your case, especially if you plan on taking a cruise.
If you need to know the location of a medical health centre able to provide you with care for a particular condition, do not hesitate to contact us prior to your departure. We will ensure that you have access to the services you need as close to your vacation destination as possible.
Luggage identification. How many black or navy suitcases do you see on the conveyor belts ? Mark your luggage with something distinctive : a ribbon, a sticker, a tag, a badge, anything different.
Did you know that as you age, you are more likely to be fragile under the sun than the average person? You may have spent years in Florida without any problems but it shouldn't prevent you from being careful. Avoid heat stroke by drinking lots of water and protect your skin. You should always carry a beach umbrella, sunscreen, bottled water, broad-brimmed hat and sandals when you visit the beach.
Prevent foot injuries. Walking barefoot on the beach or elsewhere is risky, especially for diabetics. Wear your sandals at all time to prevent injuries from sharp stones, broken glass or parasites.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do ! Wherever you are, avoid looking like a tourist. Observe the crowd and adapt to native ways. Do locals carry a camera on their chest? Do they carry a lot of money? No, so do the same. Hide your camera in a tote. Credit cards and bank cards are wonderful ways to avoid carrying too much cash!