Staying Healthy After Deployment
It is not uncommon for Soldiers to report health concerns after deployment. According to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, during post-deployment reassessment, 39 percent of active-duty Soldiers reported they had health concerns (not a wound or injury) and 29 percent reported that their health was worse than before deployment ("Medical Surveillance Monthly Report," July 2008).
Many Soldiers experience minor, temporary changes in their health after returning from a deployment. These short-term changes are mostly due to reintegration into home and family life, deployment travel and jet lag, and getting used to a different schedule and diet. Soldiers may also feel tired, have a change in appetite, or experience sore or achy muscles. These effects should be temporary and decrease as the days go by. If these effects do not improve, or if they get worse, Soldiers should be sure to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
It is important to be aware of your health after returning home. Most illnesses related to deployment occur while troops are still in theater. However, some diseases and other medical conditions may not cause noticeable symptoms until several months after Soldiers arrive at their home station.
Almost all symptoms will show up within the first six months after returning from deployment. If you experience any of the symptoms below in the first few weeks or months after returning home, you should get medical care as soon as possible:
- Muscle or joint pain
- Stomach or bowel problems
- Swollen glands
- Skin problems
- Excessive tiredness
- Emotional problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
It is very important to tell your healthcare provider that you were deployed and tell them where you were deployed. The earlier that tests are done to determine the cause of the symptoms, the sooner the correct diagnosis can be made and treatment can begin.
It is not unusual for Soldiers to experience difficulties when readjusting to their home duty station. There are a number of strategies you can use to stay healthy during this time:
- Eat regularly.
- Make healthy food choices.
- Stay away from high-fat, high-sugar foods.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Don’t let medical problems go untreated.
- Keep regular appointments with your healthcare provider.
- Keep up with preventive medicine screenings.
- Make sure you get a good night's sleep.
- Balance the amount of time you spend at work, with friends and with your family.
- Make time to relax.
- Take time to do activities you enjoy.
Remember to pay attention to your health after you return home from deployment. If you have any health concerns, be sure to contact your healthcare provider, the chaplain or your chain of command. They are all excellent sources of information that can help you and your family.