By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
Bermudians are travellers. We like to get off the Island and explore the world. But the disruption to routine; change in diet, drinking water and climate; different sleep patterns; and new activities can all contribute to possible health issues. Whether you are returning to favourite haunts or discovering new lands, you don’t want to get sick, and there are some simple ways to protect against common travel illnesses.
Before you leave, stay healthy, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and get plenty rest. If there will be a time change at your destination, try to gradually shift your schedule to match it.
If you will be visiting a country that requires vaccinations, ensure that you get them in plenty of time. Check the Bermuda Government website at gov.bm/health-clinics-bermuda or call 278-6460 or 278-6461 for more information regarding any required vaccinations for the area you are visiting and when they need to be gotten. There is also a trip planning questionnaire that can be downloaded and completed before your visit to the travel clinic.
Travel from Bermuda often requires at least one flight. In the air, drink plenty of water, eat regularly and avoid alcohol, caffeine or large meals. If you are on a long flight, get up and walk around the plane every hour or two to prevent blood clots.
If your trip takes you across several time zones, you could suffer from fatigue, poor concentration, disturbed sleep, an overall feeling of unwell and even diarrhea or constipation due to jet lag. These symptoms can last for several days: up to one day for every hour difference in time. To avoid having jet lag ruin your plans, adjust your meals and sleep schedule to local time as soon as you arrive. Exercise, eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. Take a hot, relaxing bath before bed and sleep in a dark and quiet room. If sleep is still a problem, taking melatonin one to two hours before bed can help.
Those who suffer from motion sickness know that it can make travel miserable. If you are prone to motion sickness, move your head as little as possible during travel, don’t eat or drink and avoid reading or watching videos. On a plane, try to sit over the wings; if you are on a cruise, try to get a central cabin; sit in the front seat in a car. Many travellers find that a scopolamine patch placed behind the ear helps to limit the effects of motion sickness. Other remedies include Gravol or other anti-nausea medication, including natural ginger tablets. Some people find that acupressure wristbands can help to ease symptoms.According to the CDC, traveller’s diarrhea is the top travel related illness around the world and affects up to half of all travellers. Fortunately, it is also avoidable. Avoid tap water and ice; canned or bottled drinks are the safest bet. Food should be fresh, fully cooked and eaten hot. Don’t purchase food from street vendors and never eat raw or undercooked meat or seafood. Peel fruits and vegetables yourself. And always keep hands clean with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, and keep hands away from your face and mouth.
Despite your best efforts you could still get diarrhea, so pack an antidiarrheal medicine such as Imodium, Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol just to be safe.
Before you leave, throw a few other items into your suitcase that could help to keep you comfortable while away from home: an antihistamine, like Benadryl or Piriton; a hydrocortisone cream such as Cortizone-10; a pain reliever like Advil, Tylenol or Aspirin; a laxative such as Metamucil or Dulcolax; sunscreen; insect repellant with DEET; antacids; and eye drops are a few common travel items.
As you take to the road this summer, take some easy precautions to avoid becoming ill. Stay healthy while you wander the globe and have fun! Bon voyage!
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.