Older Travelers 2020-01-26T10:31:50-05:00

Travel abroad can be a terrific experience at any age. For older travelers, though, international journeys can pose some increasing challenges. These challenges should be recognized and addressed by anyone you see for travel vaccinations, whether or not your visit is here with us.

Some common age-related issues include:

  1. An increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT, blood clots in the legs) with air/vehicle travel beyond four hours.
  2. A higher likelihood of unrecognized heart disease that can become a problem during travel exertion.
  3. Increased likelihood of injury and illness (particularly lung issues).
  4. Decreased ability to tolerate dehydration caused by traveler’s diarrhea.
  5. Decreased tolerance of extreme heat or cold.
  6. A prolonged jet-lag recovery period.


As we get older, we are more likely to:

  • Take one or more daily medications. These medications may interact with malaria medications, diarrhea medications, medications for altitude illness, and other travel-related prescriptions. For this reason, make certain you discuss ALL of the medications you take with your Travel Medicine specialist. He or she should enter those medications into electronic health record software. This software is usually able to identify interactions with travel medicines.
  • Develop medical issues that may pose travel challenges. For instance:
    • Long-term smoking can result in emphysema (COPD) that goes unrecognized until air travel.
      The lower oxygen in the airplane cabin (equivalent to traveling up to an altitude of 6-8,000 feet on land) can make you short of breath.
    • “Adult-onset” diabetes medications often need adjustment when your diet changes from country-to-country in order to avoid very high or low blood sugar.
    • Immunity-suppressing medications for a variety of diseases can interfere with vaccine effectiveness and increase susceptibility to diseases we are exposed to during travel.

Many of my Internal Medicine patients and travelers journey across the globe well into their 70’s and 80’s. Risk associated with travel cannot ever be eliminated, but, with proper attention, it can be reduced.

For more information, please visit CDC Travelers With Chronic Illnesses and CDC Senior Travel.

Have a good trip!

Julian Klapowitz, MD

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