While we plan for our summer vacations and prepare for some much needed relaxation, it’s easy to neglect important health issues as we bask in the glow of the sun and our downtime. Below are some tips for staying happy and healthy while traveling this summer:
• Avoid drinking water from suspicious sources such as lakes, rivers, pools and back-country streams. You may be tempted to drink water from these sources while camping in the woods. However, be aware that this water may contain Giardia, a tiny parasite that can cause gastrointestinal distress that includes vomiting, cramps and nausea. Boiling water for 10 minutes or more can kill the parasite. Packing plenty of bottled water is another way to stay hydrated while avoiding potential parasites from suspicious sources.
• Food poisoning is one of the most common illnesses that affects over 50,000 people who travel in the US and overseas. Eating contaminated or spoiled food causes food poisoning so think twice before devouring that sandwich that has been sitting out for several hours. Some tips in avoiding food poisoning include: cooking meat and fish sufficiently and making sure the fish is hot and cooked through when served. When traveling, it is a good idea to stay away from unpasteurized milk and milk products as they contain heavy amounts bacteria. Since bacteria quickly multiply at lukewarm temperatures, it is wise to consume foods that are very cold or hot. It is also a good idea to avoid buffets since it’s hard to know how long it has been sitting out or who is coming into contact with the food.
• Bug bites can lead to Lyme disease (in the case of a tick bite) or the West Nile virus so it is best to avoid grassy areas in the early morning and early evening hours when these critters proliferate. It is also a good idea to wear long sleeves and long pants when walking in the woods to avoid bugs from getting on your skin. At the end of the day, be sure to check for bugs prior to changing your clothes. Do not go up to stray animals to avoid the risk of Rabies.
• Getting too much sun can present another potential health hazard when traveling in the summer heat. Overexposure to the sun is the culprit behind 90% of wrinkles, fine lines and sun spots. To avoid the dangers of too much sun exposure, use a sunscreen that contains a minimum SPF of 15 and wear sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. The most severe form of UVA damage occurs between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. so use extra sunscreen at these times.
• Prevent rashes by avoiding common plants that harbor triggers such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. These plants release a chemical called urushiol, an oil that produces rashes, bumps or blisters even in small amounts. These plants can be found in forests, fields and on the side of streams. Should you develop a rash, use calamine lotion, hydro-cortisone cream or special creams that are used in the treatment of these skin conditions.
Armed with these techniques to prevent contracting summer illnesses, you are on your way to happy and healthy vacation!
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