Hi, I’m Dr. Jenny Yu, Healthline’s Medical Expert and Lonely Planet Travel Health Expert. Welcome to my column, where each week I’ll share stories and insights, experiences and opportunities, and perspectives on how you can take the "well" traveled path in your journeys.
The Omicron variant is likely to take over as the dominant COVID-19 variant in the next couple of months, replacing Delta. The race to stop its spread has caused confusion and many new challenges for travelers. Many countries have implemented – or reintroduced – strict testing either on arrival or within one day of travel. The US now requires all travelers and returning citizens test negative for COVID-19 within one day of travel, and some of the practical tips on how to navigate the testing can be found here.
Read more: Omicron: How the new COVID-19 variant is impacting travel around the world
Luckily, the US allows travelers to use at-home testing kits, provided they are proctored by a telehealth professional. So whether you’re in an eco-lodge in Costa Rica or a luxury resort in the south of France, if you have a reliable internet connection and a device you can connect with medical professionals with ease. Two of the at-home testing kits that are approved for re-entry into the US, BinaxNow and Ellume, offer telemedicine appointments for testing. On the subject of telehealth appointments, their ubiquity allows us to stay connected with our own providers more so than ever before. If you test positive and/or are feeling ill, having medical advice from your own doctor is both comforting and reassuring.
Planning for travel during the pandemic requires us to set time aside to consider various medical scenarios. The checklist could include: What is the availability of testing at my travel destination?; Will the country allow me to bring the self-administered tests?; What is the capacity of services in local hospitals/clinics?
The good news is that if you are vaccinated, especially if you’ve received a booster shot, a breakthrough infection may be quite mild. Early data from the Omicron variant also suggests that while it is more transmissible, the symptoms are milder.
You can relieve some of the stress of getting sick away from home by packing a “medical” kit.
I have often traveled with my own “sickcare” kit, which includes anti-fever and anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotic ointment, and more. During the pandemic, packing a thermometer and/or a pulse oximeter would be helpful in gauging your symptoms. Having these data points would also be beneficial when doing a telemedicine appointment with a healthcare provider. It would help to determine when you would actually need to seek care.
Many travelers have had to change their plans because of an unexpected positive COVID-19 test – even if they didn’t have symptoms. Having a contingency plan still seems to be necessary due to the various unknowns of Omicron. As we continue to navigate through rapidly changing rules, read these practical tips for self-isolating abroad.
For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.
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The Well-Traveled Path: Dr. Jenny Yu answers your questions on Omicron, boosters and more
Healthline's Dr. Jenny Yu: What it means to travel "well" in a pandemic
How will Europe's new COVID-19 restrictions affect your travel plans?