Staying healthy during Spring Break

Staying healthy during Spring Break

by Mend at Home

Spring Break is near, travel plans are made, and families are eager to get outside and spread their wings. But fewer things give us more anxiety than worrying about staying healthy the duration of our vacation or bringing back an unwanted souvenir—a stomach bug, a virus, or some other pest.

So here are some suggest about before you travel:

First, if you are traveling out of the country, check to see if there are any vaccines you might need. The most common “extras” are: Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B, meningococcal, and Tetanus including Pertussis (Tdap). For the most current listing, go to cdc.gov/travel.

Secondly, the headlines are blowing the trumpets again as health authorities warn of the recent spread of the Zika virus. A few cases have already been reported in Texas in early February according to the CDC. This disease is spread primarily by mosquitoes which are also responsible for the spread of West Nile Virus, the Chikungunya (endemic to the Caribbean), and several other diseases.

That being said, here’s how you can protect yourself: bug repellants are the first thing that usually come to mind but with all the buzz about the safety of certain chemicals, which ones do you use and trust. The most studied compounds are DEET (ex. Off), Picaridin (ex. Skin So Soft), IR3535 (ex. Bullfrog, Cutter), and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (ex. Repel). Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (20 percent) provides great protection comparable to DEET and appears to be really safe but is not recommended for kids under 3 likely because of possible skin reactions. An excellent and comprehensive review of both commercial and home based remedies can be found searching “University of Wisconsin‐Madison, mosquitoes”.

If you are heading for the hills, particularly above 8,000 feet, then you need to know about altitude sickness. Symptoms include: headache, weakness, fatigue, nausea, insomnia, and decreased appetite. No amount of fitness can make you immune to this condition. Thankfully, something as simple as ibuprofen, taken 6 hours before ascent, can help to lower the risk. If Ibuprofen does not help, you can turn to your healthcare provider for prescription strength dexamethasone which treats the symptoms of altitude sickness. More severe cases warrant a descent to lower altitudes for recovery of symptoms. For motion sickness, avoid greasy and fatty meals before travel and consume high protein meals along with some ginger chews or tea. If that does not work, pack some over‐the‐counter meclizine and take as directed. Prescription scopolamine has also been used, but watch out for dry mouth and drowsiness that can accompany this medication.

Lastly, stomach bugs leading to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea will surely make you suspicious of any food choices thereafter. Recent research suggests that daily probiotics can help to decrease “party poopers” by improving overall gut health and enhancing immune support. However, if you still develop these symptoms, rest, then sip on some ginger or peppermint tea. Slow sips are the key. Fast drinking will only trigger the vomiting again. Stick to clear fluids—generally if you can see through it, it’s ok. Take some Imodium cautiously. Apply the brakes slowly here. If you take too much, and slam on the brakes, then you will have the opposite problem—constipation. And then you may effectively trap all those unwanted toxins in your gut.

Enjoy your travels, and stay safe!


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