Depart healthy, return happy !
Travel health tips for happy holidays !
You've earned a healthy vacation ! The better prepared you are, the happier your holiday will be. To find useful health travel tips, consult our special pages before your departure. Bon Voyage !
Planning your vacation : elementary security measures
Seek information well before your departure
Your travel agent, a travel guide about the foreign destination, even your travel insurer, are great sources of very useful information.
If pre-departure time is short, foreign consulates or embassies have a wealth of travel information available. Brochures are free, since they are more than happy to promote the development of their tourism industry.
For addresses, read the travel sections of the big national dailies or visit the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada website: http://w01.international.gc.ca/Protocol-Protocole/Missions.aspx?lang=eng
Are vaccines mandatory ?
As soon as you decide which country you want to visit, go to a travel clinic to ask which vaccines are mandatory or recommended.
Make sure that you and your family are vaccinated and ask your doctor if you are still protected by a vaccine you have received in the previous years. Many modern vaccines can be administered in only one dose.
For an updated list of the travel health clinics in Canada,
visit the Health Canada Web site :
Beware : Being vaccinated shouldn't preclude being careful. Take measures to avoid insect bites, bacteria or contact with indigenous animals. Make sure you are well equipped with insect repellent, a mosquito net, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, good shoes, etc.
You should see your doctor before 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.
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.
To make sure you keep your first-aid kit complete, put it in the luggage to be carried in the baggage hold.
Travelling with a chronic illness
Consult your doctor at least four months before 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.
You should bring more medication than you will need. That way, you'll be well supplied if your return should be delayed.
Don't put all 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 ? There are bracelets that could save your life ! These inscribed MedicAlert bracelets immediately inform medical staff who are taking care
of 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 about it.
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 able to provide you with services regarding a particular need or condition, do not hesitate to ask us prior to your departure. We will ensure that you have access to the services you need, as close as possible to your vacation destination.
Travel illnesses and accidents : how to avoid them
Motion or car sickness arises when you travel in any type of vehicle, though it is rather 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 before travelling
Eat normally, especially 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 make sure that the product does not interfere with any 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 some 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 and perhaps other 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 well enough 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.
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 on 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, do not swim in any 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 hydrocution ! A common and dangerous phenomenon, hydrocution 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 !
Right in the sun !
As "winter people" we are pretty used to dealing with temperatures of minus 30ºC. But when it's 30 above, we have trouble being careful, and in fact we even take dangerous risks, maybe because we are so heat-starved after a long winter.
Respect the heat as you respect the cold !
- Take the time to adapt when you are travelling to hot climes (just as you should when summer starts at home). Take it easy and avoid any strenuous physical efforts for the two first days, especially during the sun's peak hours.
- People who live in hot climes know better how to live with the heat. If nobody is working between noon and 3 p.m., there must be 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 the body temperature can prevent heat stroke.
- Wear light, pale-coloured, full-length clothing, since apparel protects you more efficiently 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.
- Protect your head ! Wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your ears and neck. Wear quality sun glasses that will filter the UVA and UVB rays (yes, there are reasonably affordable ones, although they might not have designer names !).
- Prevent dehydration that can cause serious health problems. Don't wait to be thirsty to drink plenty of water, as much as two litres a day, and up to six litres a day if you practice any sport in the sun or if you perspire a lot. Avoid alcohol, especially beer, a diuretic that encourages water loss. Moreover, mosquitoes are attracted to people who drink alcool.
- Children and elderly people are more fragile than you
are ! They 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 brimmed hat — not a baseball cap, which doesn't protect the ears or the neck — as well as sandals.
- And yes, children will benefit from wearing sunglasses too.
- Sunscreen is a must ! Especially for children,
since skin cancer may take 15 or more years to develop.
- The SPF should be 15 at minimum, 30 for kids.
- Look for the Canadian Dermatology Association logo. Only products who meet the Association's quality standards can say so.
- Make sure the product will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, and don't wait to be on the beach to apply your sunscreen. Do it 20 minutes before exposure to the sun.
- Bathing will 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 ears, nose, lips and eyelids. Use a hypoallergenic product or one for sensitive skin. Take our word for it you don't want to burn your eyelids : your eyes will swell shut !
- 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, don't leave
- Warm clothes (temperatures can drop below freezing at night, even in summer);
- A blanket;
- Cereal bars;
- At least a gallon of water per person.
- Photoallergic dermatitis is an allergy to the
sun : a rash appears on the exposed skin, giving you an itching
sensation. If you have suffered from this condition, or if you are
ultra-sensitive to the sun :
- Avoid being exposed to the sun at peak hours between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 45 — essential !
- Some substances may diminish the sun's effect. Consult your doctor AND your pharmacist : an antihistamine may help you.
- Some substances contained in medications provoke
undesired reactions under the sun. They are so-called
photo-sensitive, which mean that they will react to the
- Avoid wearing perfumes or perfumed body lotions.
- Many drugs may provoke nasty skin reaction : 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.
- Before you take your kids to Disney World, wait until they are old enough to enjoy this wonderful attraction park ! There is so much to see that toddlers and younger children get tired of too quickly and do not have the attention span necessary to really enjoy. However, at around six or seven years of age, they will be thrilled to try everything and won't be afraid of their favourite character's mascot. You'll be as delighted as them !
Travelling by car
- Don't take for granted that a baby seat or booster will be provided with your rental car. Moreover, depending on your destination, a safe baby seat may not be available. It is recommended that you take with you a baby seat or booster that meets all North American safety standards.
- 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. You 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 travel guide.
- 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 teach them to the kids. It will prevent driver's fatigue and kids will burn up energy !
- 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, you'll focus on the road.
- If your children are used to taking a nap, time your departure in accordance with naptime.
- Do not smoke 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 need a 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.
- Let the airline company know that you'll be travelling with your kids. Major airlines have special programs to help them enjoy their flight. Travel agents and airline employees can help you get the best seats. Ask for them when you buy your tickets.
- Make sure the kids 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 knees but over two, he or she needs to sit in a regular seat. If your baby weighs less than 25 pounds and cannot sit by himself, you may get a "sky cot" but you need to ask for it as soon as you make your reservations. Available on big planes only 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 a "kid's meal" since airlines offer a variety of meals for special diets. However, you need to order 24 hours in advance.
We're here at last !
- 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 find you.
- Let your children know the program of the day. They will be happy to participate in any activity if you consulted them too.
- When you go somewhere, determine in advance a meeting place and time, in case someone gets lost.
- Show them how to use the phone at the foreign destination and make sure that they know the name and the phone number of the person to reach if you are not with them.
Comfort tips for Snowbirds
Do you travel a lot, often and everywhere ? Here are a few tips from our "Snowbirds" travellers to make your trip even more enjoyable.
You can 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, but it's a good way to depart worry-free if you suffer from any chronic illness or medical condition. If you choose not to do so, be aware that any pre-existing condition in not covered, but you are 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 of your medication than you need. Bring an extra one-week supply. Do not put your health at risk ! In the Western world, drugs are similar but they are not the same. In Asia, many deaths have been caused by counterfeit drugs.
Fragile condition ? It doesn't mean you can't travel, but 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 go on a cruise.
If you need to know the location of a 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 as possible to your vacation destination.
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 ! Be creative !
Did you know that as you age, you are likely to be more 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 go to 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. Should you really want to walk barefoot, do so on clean and wet sand. This way, you reduce the risk of getting a sharp object in your foot and picking up an infection.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do ! Wherever you are, try not to look too much like a tourist or you'll be spotted instantly by thieves. Observe the crowd and adapt when you go shopping : try to adopt native ways. Do they 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 !