Wellness Meets Wanderlust: From quick jaunts to overseas adventures, how you can prepare to stay well

Dr. Patrick Lenahen, of Roxborough Memorial Hospital, discusses healthy travel for this season. Photo Roxborough Memorial Hospital.

As the leaves turn and the weather chills, many are starting to con• sider fall travel and holiday travel plans. From empty nesters to families with small children to college students planning semesters abroad, locals who did not escape during the hot summer months may be bolstered by lifted restrictions and anticipating a voyage or two this fall.

In Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, Covid-19 numbers began a rapid decline in the spring and continued the trend throughout the summer, with numbers reaching single digits to zero daily cases in some areas by mid-summer. While it is encouraging that numbers have declined and vaccinations have continued to rise, the Delta variant continues to rise and to inhabit geographic pockets both domestically and internationally, and there are some precautions and some common-sense measures everyone should be taking if they are considering traveling either across country or around the world this season.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 60 percent of Americans had received at least one vaccination over the summer, with transmission of the Delta variant at a moderate rate. While mask restrictions have laxed and life has return to a new normal locally with dining out, shopping and public events, travel can pose a whole host of different hazards travelers must be aware of.

Some of the same practices that are commonplace and safe at home are not sufficient when traveling both domestically and abroad. And while encouraging numbers show the vaccine does help in local cases against the Covid-19 variant, it is not foolproof immunity elsewhere.

“By September, we were all hoping to be more relaxed and return to normalcy. But we are likely going to see the return to normalcy retarded for some time because of the uptick in other countries and in many states in the U.S. with low vaccination rates. Protecting yourself is a prudent gesture because you are entering into the unknown,” said Patrick Lenahen, MD, chief medical officer at Roxborough Memorial Hospital. “It is more of a return to the concerns that you relaxed while you were at home.”

Lenahen himself is planning a destination wedding for this daughter in Utah this October and has seen a tremendous number of positive responses to the invitations. He attributes the “yes” responses to everyone being ready after all the restrictive months to “finally having a vacation.”

We asked Lenahen to talk about what travelers should do to take precautions, plan ahead, and act intelligently when they are planning to travel this season.

– Before planning anything, make sure you’ve received the vaccine. “I really think there are going to be restrictions on people who cannot provide proof of vaccinations,” Lenahen said. “The best thing is for everyone to commit to the idea of getting vaccinated. It is the only safe way to stop the progression.” The good news is that numbers are showing the immunity provided by the vaccine may last longer than originally anticipated, though it is still too early to tell, he said.

“The immunity provided by the vaccine does significantly lower your risk of getting sick or hospitalized, but the CDC has stated that the transmission of the Delta variant of Covid019 is still problematic among all individuals, including those who have been vaccinated,” he said. “This means that we should all be responsible to protect children and adults at risk from transmission by adhering to the typical mitigation measures of masking, hand sanitizing and social distancing for those individuals, especially when traveling to areas with high transmission rates of Covid-19.” One very important point to remember. You are not truly vaccinated for two weeks after most immunizations, so heading to CVS the day before you leave won’t cut it.

– Be very, very familiar with the CDC Web site before booking any trip, Lenahen cautions. There are areas where the Delta variant of Covid-19 is rampant, including far-flung destinations like Israel and India. “There are individual pockets where the rate of infection and hospitalization are going

up,” Lenahen said. “Check the CDC daily. The islands are still a little sketchy.” The CDC posts updates for travelers on www.cdc.gov. It is better to know ahead of time, as well as to monitor a destination even after the trip is booked.

– Heed CDC guidelines and airline regulations and continue to wear masks in airports and on planes, as well as to carry hand sanitizer. Relaxing mask use at your local grocery store is a lot different than getting on a plane with travelers from ten different countries. “Many of us have relaxed our diligence, “Lenahen said. “When you are going to an airport with many people from countries all over, there is an increased risk.” Adhering to the old six-foot social distancing rule and washing hands should return to your routine during the travel hours.

– Remember it’s not just Covid-19 you are up against when you are traveling during the fall and early winter. “We are very focused on Corona virus and rightfully so, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that when we enter the October and November time frame, the flu is back in play,” he said. Limit contact when you or someone you come across is exhibiting cold-like symptoms. It may not be COVID, but it could ruin your trip.

– Book ahead. Hotel and airline reservations have spiked more than 50 percent in some cases already, as people return to travel. Booking ahead also allows you to monitor conditions at your destination and plan ahead, rather than hopping a plane for a spur-of-the-moment getaway.

– Once you’ve arrived at a hotel or family home destination, is it ok to relax a little bit. After all, this is a vacation. “Once you arrive, you can go back to doing what you were doing when you were home,” Lenahen said, adding that if you are around family, it is ok not to wear masks if everyone is on board with that plan. At hotels, you can relax in your room but if it’s a hotel with 200 or so rooms, “Wear a mask [in hallways and com• mon areas] so you are a little protected,” Lenahen said.