Summer Travel with Cancer

By Staff Writer - July 11, 2019

Summer is in full swing and people are heading off to their favorite vacation destinations. With so much in the news about the worldwide measles outbreak and other illnesses, you may be wondering if you need to take extra precautions this summer travel season.

The United States currently is experiencing the largest outbreak of measles in 25 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1,095 cases of measles have been confirmed across 28 states since Jan. 1.

The majority of people who get measles are unvaccinated, and the disease can spread when it reaches a community where groups of people are unvaccinated. The CDC recommends people get the MMR vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and a second dose at four to six years of age. Adults who have no evidence of immunity need two doses of the MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.

Do I need to be revaccinated prior to traveling?

  • Anyone born before 1957 is immune from the disease and does not need vaccination.
  • If you were vaccinated between 1963-1968 with an inactive vaccine—one that uses a killed version of the disease—you carry risk of atypical measles and should be revaccinated.
  • If you were vaccinated after 1968, you do not need to be revaccinated unless you are at high risk, which includes those who have close contact, such as sharing sports equipment or drinks, kissing or living in close quarters, with a person who has measles, mumps or rubella.

Travel Tips
Traveling with cancer may involve some extra planning, but there are ways to help it be less stressful and more enjoyable. Here are some helpful tips on how you can make the process of getting from point A to point B a little bit easier:

  • If your plans include air travel, check with your physician to confirm that it is safe for you to fly. For some people, the changes in air pressure and oxygen levels that occur at high altitudes can be dangerous and possibly even life-threatening.
  • Review your health insurance policy to determine your out-of-town coverage. You might want to find a health care provider as well as an urgent care center and emergency room located close to where you’ll be, just in case you should need immediate medical attention while you’re away.
  • Create a comprehensive summary of your medical information and keep it with you at all times. Ask your physician to write down your specific diagnosis, allergies, medication instructions and other treatment information. If you will be crossing time zones, be sure to find out whether this will affect your medication schedule. Add your emergency contact information to the list and provide a copy to a traveling companion (if you have one).
  • Pack your medications in a carry-on bag. Keep all drugs in their original containers, and if you need syringes, ask your physician to write an explanatory note regarding their medical necessity. You may be required to produce these items for customs officials. Also, you might want to bring an extra supply of medications, just in case you encounter a delay in getting home.
  • Take steps to prevent lymphedema (leg swelling) and deep vein thrombosis. Try to get up and walk around as much as possible – at least once every hour – during your journey (sitting in an aisle seat can make this easier). Dress in loose, comfortable clothing and, if recommended by your physician, wear a special compression garment.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time. Travel can be exhausting under even the best circumstances, and the inevitable delays can raise anyone’s stress level through the roof. Be a little more cautious than you normally would, and try your best to stay calm so that you can focus your energy on what’s most important – getting better.

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