Whether you’ll be hitting the road for business, leisure, or holiday travel this month, staying healthy is key so that you can be at your best and take advantage of everything your trip has to offer. Depending on your destination, there are a number of health challenges that are specific to this time of year, running the gamut from colds and flu to slips and falls.
As the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared.” The following tips can help ensure you have a travel health kit packed for nearly any situation you’ll encounter in November.
November’s seasonal health challenges
As the seasons transition from milder fall conditions to colder winter weather as the northern latitudes get later into the month, there are a variety of health challenges that can appear in tandem. In the United States, flu and cold season are heading toward their peaks between December and February, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To add an extra layer of complexity, the weather is often quite variable at this time of year, with unexpected warm streaks and sudden cold snaps, which can increase the chances of coming down with a respiratory illness. Early winter weather can also up the odds of conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia.
For travelers who have seasonal allergies, this time of year can bring its own unique set of challenges. Although the pollen clouds of the spring and summer are long gone, mold and dust mites can become problematic, especially as leaves decay and long-dormant heating systems are turned on.
The shorter hours of daylight can also increase the risk of developing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), while the drier, colder air can up the odds of experiencing skin issues. Slippery conditions from early blasts of snow or ice can also make falls more likely. And this is to say nothing of the risk of food poisoning that comes at this time of year, with the increase in holiday gatherings where food is being served.
So, with all of those potential seasonal health pitfalls in mind, here are some essentials you should consider including in your travel health kit whether you plan to visit warm US cities in the late fall, winter or early spring.
Basic components of a travel health kit
No matter the time of year, there are certain items that a travel health kit should always include:
- First aid essentials. This includes bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze, and tape.
- Tweezers and scissors.
- Pain relievers and fever reducers
- Medicines you take on a regular basis at home. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, you should pack enough for the trip itself, plus extra in case your return home is delayed. (Those with a chronic condition should also consider wearing medical alert ID, notes Johns Hopkins.)
- Hand sanitizer and masks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- A thermometer.
- Creams and lotions for treating rashes, cuts, scrapes, and burns.
- Disposable rubber gloves.
- Extra contact lenses or prescription glasses.
- Contact information for healthcare providers.
Seasonal health kit additions for November
In addition to the items above, at this time of year it’s important to also have the following in your health travel kit:
- Cold and flu prevention and treatment. Tissues, cough drops or syrup, throat lozenges, nasal spray.
- Skin protection. Moisturizing lotion, lip balm with SPF, sunscreen for unseasonably sunny or snowy days. (Snow reflects sun even better than water and nearly doubles a person’s ultraviolet [UV] exposure, according to the World Health Organization [WHO].)
- Allergy treatments. Antihistamines, eye drops, nasal corticosteroids as recommended by your doctor.
Travel-specific items for your travel health kit
Depending on your destination, you may want to include some of the following in your November travel health kit:
- Water purification methods. Filters, tablets.
- Insect repellant (if you’ll be traveling to a warmer climate or somewhere with late-season mosquitoes).
- Sleep aids for unfamiliar locations or different time zones. Earplugs, eyeshades, travel pillow.
- Motion sickness remedies. Patches or other prescription or over-the-counter medicines as recommended by your healthcare provider, acupressure motion sickness wristbands.
- Altitude sickness remedies, if applicable for your destination.
Be sure to check the COVID-19 vaccination requirements at your destination prior to leaving. In addition, consider packing the following in your travel health kit:
- COVID-19 vaccination card.
- COVID-19 testing kits.
- Additional hand sanitizer and masks.
Packing and accessibility tips
To ensure all the items in your November health travel kit are at easy reach, dedicate a small, durable bag or container to the cause. It should be simple to open and, if you’ll be flying, fit inside your carry-on luggage. Put the items that you’ll need quickly or frequently, such as hand sanitizer, masks, or pain relievers, in dedicated compartments or pockets. Be sure to label any medications and liquids and to keep a list of the kit’s contents in the bag. And for longer trips where a greater supply may be necessary, place any extra inventory in your checked luggage. (Be aware of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rule stating that liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item for carry-on luggage. Also note that according to the TSA, “You may bring medically necessary liquids, medications and creams in excess of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in your carry-on bag. Remove them from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings.”)
If you’ll be flying and/or going through customs, it’s important to keep all your medications in their original packaging with easily identifiable labels. Having a doctor’s note outlining your need for any medicines or medical devices is also crucial for ensuring a straightforward trip through security screening. Be sure to check the TSA and your destination’s guidelines on any medications or medical devices you may be bringing, as medications that are legal in one area may be illegal or require a prescription in another. And according to Harvard University, remember to declare your medications at customs, as failure to do so can lead to a variety of penalties in certain countries.
Travel apps to find local resources
Before you hit the road, downloading certain travel health apps can help you track down local resources if needed while you’re under way. Some top picks include International SOS Assistance, the American Red Cross First Aid app, and the FEMA app. Pharmacy apps such as GoodRX can help you locate nearby drugstores and get discounts on medicines, while translation apps can help communicate vital information in the event of an emergency.
Final preparations and checkups
According to the CDC, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider at least a month before traveling to ensure you are up to date on recommended vaccines for your destination and that you have a supply of any medicines you may need. You should also be sure to confirm what services your medical insurance covers at your destination and to research and sign up for any needed traveler’s insurance.
As you wrap up your travel preparations, remember that your health is the passport to enjoying every moment of your journey. The health risks associated with November travel don’t have to be a deterrent for your travel plans. With the right preparation and a well-stocked travel health kit, you can be ready for whatever the month throws your way. From basic first aid to seasonal necessities and travel-specific contingencies, you’ve got it all covered.
And don’t forget, while we’ve provided a checklist, always tailor your kit to your specific health needs and the nature of your trip. So go ahead — finalize your itinerary, pack your health essentials, and embark on your November travels with confidence and peace of mind. Safe travels and good health on your November adventures!
Disclaimer of Medical Advice: This information does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual needs.