Many boomers and seniors remember lining up in their grade-school auditoriums, waiting to receive a sugar cube with a potent potion: the oral polio vaccine. The disease has been eradicated from the United States and from most Americans' consciousness. But if you're planning an overseas vacation, you may need consciousness raising - and a booster.
"There's a pocket of countries where a onetime polio booster is indicated," says Dr. Alexander Lupenko, medical director at Passport Health travel clinics in the metropolitan area, including two on Long Island. The U.S. government lists about 40 countries where it recommends a polio shot for visiting Americans. Most of the countries are probably not on your vacation list, although one, India, attracts a sizable number of U.S. tourists.
While the chances of contracting polio on a vacation are very low, older travelers should be prepared for other potential health problems. Depending on where you are going, it might be wise to be immunized for typhoid, influenza, hepatitis A and hepatitis B, Lupenko says. This includes many European countries.
"Many baby boomers have traveled around the United States or Europe before, and we start to think we're immune to everything, which is not the case," says Lupenko, who suggests seeing your doctor to get a full checkup before you go overseas. Passport Health, the largest provider of travel medical services in the United States, offers trip information and a wide range of vaccines for U.S. travelers. If you want to use Passport Health's services, Lupenko says make an appointment four to six weeks before your trip, because some vaccines require a series of immunizations.
Beyond the vaccines, older travelers, especially those with health conditions, should take other precautions. If you are traveling to a high-altitude destination, your body may work harder, and your medicines may work differently. And Lupenko says to make sure that when you board the plane, your medications are in your carry-on bags, not in your checked luggage. You might be going to London, England, but your checked bags may end up in London, Ontario.
For more information on Passport Health's services, go to passporthealth usa.com. For information on travelers' health and warnings for specific countries, go to wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. And for general tips on traveling aboard, visit travel.state.gov/travel/tips/ tips_1232.html.