Some tips for a healthy vacation
Although people take vacations year round, particularly if their schedules aren't dependent on their children's time off from school, summer reigns supreme as the yearly period when many of us take a break from everyday life. Once you vacate the premises (both "vacate" and "vacation" come from the Latin vacare meaning "to free or make empty") the last thing you want is a health-related problem, no matter how minor, to keep you from fully enjoying the time and money you've committed.
There's no guaranteed way to avoid feeling somewhat less than chipper on your trip, but there are some tips that can help you avoid and better manage the bumps on the road to a relaxing, restful, interesting and even inspiring vacation. For example:
Crank Up the Immune System: No matter where you go or what kind of vacation you enjoy there's a good chance that you'll be eating out more than usual, and that means less control over the quality of the food and its preparation. One thing to consider is to begin consuming some probiotics at least three days before you head out. Probiotics are microorganisms that help maintain the natural balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in the intestinal tract and promote good digestion. Probiotics are found naturally in fermented foods and cultured dairy products like yogurt, as well as in probiotic supplements.
You can also get a positive bump in your immunity by getting several especially good nights of sleep before you leave. And because stress can adversely affect our immune systems, try to reduce stressful situations by packing early, getting everything ready before you start off and making sure you leave in plenty of time to reach your destination when you plan to, whether it's an airport or a beach.
Prepare Your Kit: If you're traveling by car, it's convenient to carry along a pre-packaged first-aid kit or you can put together your own based on any specific needs you anticipate. If you're flying somewhere you generally have to squeeze the size down a little, but in both cases consider these basics:
- Small bandages and Neosporin for cuts and scrapes. If there's room, tape and gauze are a good idea for larger injuries.
- Benadryl or a similar antihistamine for allergic reactions – in a pinch it can also be used as a sleep aid.
- Cortisone cream can provide topical relief for itches from stinging insects, poisonous plants and light sunburn, although pure aloe would be the substance of choice in that instance – although if you follow the suggestions for sun protection in your My Healthy Lifestyle newsletter, sunburn shouldn't be a problem!
- Pain relievers like aspirin or Tylenol are generally easy to find, but it's more convenient to bring some along.
- Imodium is what you want for diarrhea while ginger ale, and the more ginger the better, will usually give some relief for an upset stomach.
Whether you're driving or flying or cruising for that matter, also make sure you have an additional supply of prescription medications and keep some separate from your luggage, in case the latter gets lost.
Don't Overestimate Your Abilities: A growing number of people are engaging in what the travel industry calls "Adventure Travel" which usually means going somewhere and doing things you've never done before… things that might give you pause when you're back home and living your non-vacation life. Even if you aren't seeking out the more extreme variety of activities, vacations sometimes come with certain exertions and skill levels that require a certain degree of fitness and an equal amount of caution – a long hike on varied terrain, a run down a black diamond ski slope (that's for winter vacations, but keep it in mind), water-related sports or a motor scooter ride in a place where roads and traffic conditions are poor.
The point is, don't do something physical that you're not ready for in terms of your own preparation and physical conditioning. A little momentary enjoyment and thrill-seeking has its own built-in pleasure. But if you're not ready for the activity at hand, there's also a chance that the results will put a damper on your whole vacation.
Shake a Leg: Whether you're in a car or plane, a boat or a train, it's important to get up and move around as best you can. Sitting in a cramped position for a long period of time can lead to anything from simple discomfort to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. If you are on a long flight, periodically raise and lower your heels but also get up into the aisle from time to time. In a car, it's even easier. Just stop in a safe place and get out and stretch. And don't wait until you feel sore and stiff from driving or riding. The more medical science learns about the physiology of sitting, the more important it becomes to stand up and move!
Stay Active: And while you're up shaking a leg, you might as well keep moving. If your idea of a great vacation involves lying in a hammock or doing nothing more than reaching for the sunscreen on the beach, you probably need the relaxation. But make sure you're getting some exercise, too. No matter where you are there's a good chance you can get a walk in every day, preferably early or late in the day in hot weather. Do some stretching exercises, before and after you hit that hammock or beach blanket. Otherwise, the souvenir of your summer vacation may consist of taking home a few extra pounds.
Stay Hydrated: Unless you're traveling outside of the developed world where safe drinking water can unfortunately be hard to come by, this is the easiest thing you can do to help assure an enjoyable vacation. If you're traveling by air, hydration is very important because you become much more susceptible to infection from passing germs if your nasal membranes, along with the rest of you, are dehydrated. But making sure you have plenty of liquids (and the alcohol versions don't count) is critical no matter where you spend your vacation. That includes hot days at the beach, higher elevations in the mountains or lounging in your own backyard.
We all need a vacation. You can make sure yours is the best it can be for you and your family by following these few simple tips.
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