Destination: Healthy Travel
Monday, May 23, 2011
If the goal of vacation is to feel better, why are nasty
injuries, icky infections, and added pounds such common souvenirs?
Why, when we
travel, do we think we're in a parallel universe, where we have
superhero powers and are immune from harm? With this ultimate
Prevention trip planner, you'll have an excellent adventure...and
still return in one piece.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Pack Your First Aid Kit
Pharmacist Laura Mandos of the University of the Sciences
Bandages and Neosporin: For cuts. For larger injuries, bring
tape and gauze. If the water isn't safe, saline solution is a
Hydrocortisone cream: Provides topical relief for poison ivy,
poison oak, or stinging nettles.
Benadryl: Good for allergic reactions--and in a pinch, it
doubles as a sleep aid.
Imodium: Your go-to solution for diarrhea. (For an upset
stomach, try ginger ale.)
Prescription meds: Pack extra, in case you get stranded.
Check Your Health Insurance
Not all medical insurance covers travel abroad. Break your
leg while hiking in the jungle and a medical evacuation could set
you back $10,000 or more. So ask your insurer about exclusions
before you go, and consider buying a supplemental policy.
On a Cruise
More than 50 million Americans planned to book a cruise
between 2010 and 2013. And multitudes of stowaways--i.e.,
germs--will likely tag along. But despite the fact that cruise ship
outbreaks of Norovirus, which causes stomach
flu, have made headlines, hospitals, schools, and daycare
centers are where 9 out of 10 such outbreaks actually occur. We
hear more about episodes at sea because cruise lines are legally
required to report outbreaks to the CDC. The organization also
loosely monitors ship cleanliness and recently gave its top rating
to 36 popular vessels, including Carnival Liberty, Norwegian Dawn,
Celebrity Century, and Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas.
On an Airplane
Whenever you're in a small, crowded place, you're at
increased risk of contracting germs, says Mark Gendreau, MD, an
air-travel expert and vice chair of emergency medicine at the Lahey
Clinic in Burlington, MA. "Planes are often packed, and there's
also the issue of the very low humidity level on aircraft," he
says. "Your nasal membranes become dehydrated, which makes you more
susceptible to infection from passing germs." Aside from the
obvious precautions--drink lots of water, use saline nasal spray,
and keep your hands off your face--he advises turning the overhead
vent above your seat to medium flow and directing the nozzle
slightly in front of your face. Then, if someone sneezes, those
30,000 airborne droplets are less likely to rain down on top of
you. Also, if you have a choice, sit at the front of the plane,
which typically has the best ventilation. Finally, bring along an
alcohol-based hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes to clean your
hands, tray tables, and armrests, which can be teeming with
60% of airplane food trays carry MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant
Staphylococcus Aureus) bacteria. See 7 more
germy public places to avoid
(Leg) Room For Improvement
Tennis star Serena Williams is in top physical shape, so
people were shocked when she developed a life-threatening pulmonary
embolism after a long flight in February. But "it can happen to
anybody who sits in a cramped space for a long time," says Arthur
Agatston, MD, a preventive cardiologist and Prevention advisory
board member. To keep clots from forming during long flights,
periodically raise and lower your heels while seated and walk up
and down the aisle a few times. If you feel calf pain when you flex
and unflex your foot, call a doctor upon landing.
Have Radiation, Will Travel
Last winter, the traveling public was indignant--not about
baggage fees but about radiation emitted by the Travel Security
Administration's new Advanced Imaging Technology full-body
scanners. The scoop: Although Americans' cumulative level of
radiation exposure is now 7 times higher than it was 30 years ago,
most of it comes from medical imaging tests. "Passengers get more
exposure during a flight from cosmic radiation and solar flares
than they do from airport scanners," says Dr. Gendreau.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE
Get In The (Sleep) Zone
Between the hours you spent getting to the airport and the double
time you put in at the office the week before, you're even more
tired than you were before your vacation started. What's a
sleep-deprived traveler to do? Graham Glass, MD, of the University
of California, San Francisco Sleep Disorders Center, offers his
tips to help you get your z's.
DO take melatonin. It's not a sleeping pill, but it helps reset
your internal sleep clock. "If you're flying east, take it in the
early evening before you leave on your trip; once you arrive, take
another one an hour before bedtime," he says.
DON'T order a Bloody Mary on the plane the minute the beverage
cart rolls by. We know, it's tempting--alcohol can help you to fall
asleep despite your cramped upright position. But overall, drinking
will disrupt your sleep and leave you less rested.
DON'T hit the sack as soon as you've checked in to your
hotel--no matter how exhausted you feel. Instead, get on the local
"There's a saying that 'heading east is a beast,'" says Dr.
Glass. "If you must take a nap, keep it under two hours."
natural ways to sleep better
Get Out Your Sunscreen
Bathing suit: Check! Fully loaded Kindle: Check! Two
bottles of sunscreen
for every member of your family: Seriously? That's right. For
adequate protection, you need to coat yourself every 2 hours and
apply a lot more than you realize. Vanity alert: The thin skin on
the top of your hands is a prime target for age spots.
IN THE HOTEL ROOM
Sex On The Beach
Overworked couples often try to schedule morning, noon,
sex on vacation to make up for lost time. Add to that the fact
that people tend to be more sexually adventurous while traveling
and you can have some unexpected mishaps.
A recent UK poll found that strained muscles took first place on
the sex-accident index, followed by back injuries, sprained ankles
and wrists, and the not-so-sexy battle scar known as rug burn. One
in 10 said that they or their partner had fallen out of bed during
Don't Let The Bedbugs Bite!
Bedbugs are equal-opportunity pests: You're as likely to encounter
them at a high-end hotel as at a budget dive. To avoid forming a
lasting relationship with these unwanted critters, follow these
precautions from Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs
at the National Pest Management Association.
Pestproof with plastic: When packing, pop clothes into giant
sealable bags. There are also medium and large clear plastic
suitcase covers for wary travelers who want to keep the bugs at
Do a spot check: Upon arrival, deposit your luggage in the
shower, and do a visual sweep for the apple-seed-size bugs (and
specks of blood) on the mattress and upholstered furniture.
Safeguard your belongings: Even if your room is clean, keep your
suitcase off the floor, preferably atop a hard luggage rack. Avoid
draping your clothes over the furniture or placing them inside the
Don't take them with you: As soon as you get home, launder all
of your clothes--even items you haven't worn--on the hottest washer
and dryer settings. Then vacuum your suitcase to suck up any
Beware Unwanted "Baggage"
Between grabbing a Cinnabon at the airport (730 calories!),
slurping down one too many margaritas by the pool, and getting our
"money's worth" at the buffet, many of us return from a weeklong
trip 5 pounds heavier. Before you reach for the back-to-work
caftan, put these three weight
gain traps on your radar, says David Heber, MD, director of the
UCLA Center for Human Nutrition:
Be wise about breakfast: Waffles and pancakes look tempting, but
think of them as set decorations. Instead, greet the sunrise with a
protein-rich shake or an egg-white omelet to kick-start your
metabolism and keep you satisfied.
Count beverage calories: Cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts
offer an endless supply of juices, sodas, and sweetened cocktails.
By day, opt for green tea, which revs your metabolism. By night,
drink red wine (125 calories versus 350 for a pina colada).
Say no nocturnal noshing: Where else but a cruise ship would you
find Midnight Buffet extravaganzas? "No one should be eating from a
towering chocolate fountain that late at night," says Dr.
You're not Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods, so don't feel
pressure to try the deep-fried scorpion, even if it's touted as the
not-to-be-missed local specialty. If you're in a country where food
safety is a concern, follow these three simple tips from the World
Run from raw: That includes undercooked eggs, leafy greens,
produce without a peel or shell, and red meat and poultry whose
juices run pink.
Beware the buffet: If cooked food has been sitting out for a
while, do yourself a favor and don't eat it. The presence of steam
is a good sign that food is hot enough. Cold food should be sitting
on plenty of unmelted ice.
Turn off the tap: In addition, avoid raw milk, ice cubes, and
ice cream. Bottled water is your safest bet. If tap water is your
only option, bring it to a vigorous boil first. And never swallow
water in the shower or from the sink--brush your teeth with the
Take Your Fitness Routine
On The Road
Layer up: Too cold for a morning walk on the beach? Merrell's
Iso jacket is made from cutting-edge microfleece. It has 7 times
more wind resistance than the regular kind. ($79; merrell.com)
Find an app: Whether your travels take you to Paris, France, or
Portland, OR, mapmyrun.com has apps (iPhone, BlackBerry, and
Android compatible) that let you chart a run, hike, or kayak
Packable shoes: Skip the bulky sneakers and opt for New Balance
Minimum Wellness featherlight walking shoes. They fold in half for
easy packing. ($100; newbalance.com)
Bring your own mat: If you prefer your own germ-free yoga mat,
Maduka's eKO SuperLite travel version weighs in at 2 pounds and
folds into a compact cube. ($36; manduka.com)
Avoid Adventure Overload
Egged on by overzealous staff at hotel "activity" desks, many
vacationers decide that now is the moment to take a maiden-voyage
hang glide, do a daily 15-mile hike, or try the "2-hour deep-tissue
sensory-deprivation massage," even though they're actually
As a result, too many end up going home with not just cute local
jewelry but also bills from a side trip to the local ER. Motor
vehicle-related accidents (including ones that involve those
adorable scooters you see zipping all over Italy) are by far the
most common cause of injury and even death among travelers, and the
risk is higher in developing countries where roads and traffic
conditions are poor. Water-related activities are the second most
hazardous. "Many vacation accidents happen because people
overestimate their ability," says Peter Greenberg, CBS News travel
editor. "They attempt black-diamond ski runs even though they're
Accidents happen, too, because travelers often fail to take
basic precautions. "I don't tell people they shouldn't take
adventure trips," says Greenberg. "But when you cross borders, you
have to remember that all the basic rules still apply."