Health advice for grey nomads

Heading off on a long-term trip around Australia in a caravan or motorhome is not an undertaking to be taken lightly. Here, the  President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Tony Bartone, offers soon-to-be grey nomads some pertinent advice.

So you’re planning to head off on that dream trip around Australia, but you’re not quite sure what you need to do to protect your health. It really depends on your age, how well you are, and how much chronic disease is being managed.

Let’s assume you are in very stable health, and are going away for more than a month. Have a check-up at least a few weeks before your planned departure date to allow for any unexpected issues, and follow ups and additional tests.

Repeat scripts are useful – either get a longer supply from your local pharmacist, or take repeats with you. Make sure you discuss any potential effects on your driving from any of your prescribed medications.

It makes sense to carry test results in a folder with you for any serious or significant issues, and any further information as deemed relevant by your GP. Ask your GP to prepare a health summary – this could be a lifesaver in an emergency a long way from home.

While the digital My Health Record has the potential to save lives and deliver economic benefits, at this stage, it can’t replace your GP’s file, particularly in areas with poor or no internet access or mobile phone reception. In terms of travelling itself, there are a number of do’s and don’ts.

Do:
• Keep rested. A good night’s sleep is vital to staying alert on the road. Pull over safely if you feel fatigued or drowsy.
• Eat a good meal or a snack before starting each drive.
• Break any drive into short stints, taking regular breaks every couple of hours even if you don’t feel sleepy. Share the driving responsibilities where possible.
• Keep up with your regular exercise. Walk around and explore during your driving breaks. Do some simple stretching exercises. This will not only help keep you healthy, it will enhance your Give yourself the gift of good health for a great journey travel experience.
• Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, but avoid overdoing the tea and coffee.
• Eat nutritiously where possible, especially fruit and vegetables. Stock up on snacks and drinks at grocery stores rather than service stations. It can be hard to find healthy food in remote locations. You should also be aware of fruit fly zones if you are carrying fruit.
• Have sunscreen, a hat, and protective clothing close at hand, and remember that you can get sunburnt through the car windscreen and windows.

Don’t:
• Drive if you’re tired or unwell, or if you are taking sedating medications.
• Drive very long stints, particularly if you have any musculo-skeletal injuries.

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