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HEALTHY TRAVEL April 10, 2010

Posted by Dr. Jacqueline E. Campbell in Health, Wellness.
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Well its that time of the year when many persons begin planning to go overseas on vacation. Overseas travel can be an exciting yet potentially hazardous with dry, recycled air on airplanes, jet lag, unfamiliar food and drink and climate changes. Add to that the numerous airport security checks! It is amazing that we still want to travel! However with a little preparation you can stay healthy while traveling.

Plan Ahead

Prevention is a big part of staying well while traveling. As soon as you have picked a destination and planned your itinerary, ensure that your medical insurance is valid in that part of the world. Travel with the contact information for your doctors, a list of the names and dosages of any medications you take and, if necessary your doctor’s summary of your medical history.

Depending on where you are headed and for how long, you may want to consider getting vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides up-to-date immunization recommendations on its web site (www.cdc.gov). Of course the decision to get vaccinated should be based on personal risk, not just on destination.

The Journey

Travel can be stressful . Meditation and deep breathing are excellent stress-busters. Focusing on breathing will not only slow your heart rate and bring oxygen to the brain and body, but it can lower blood pressure, ease anxiety and calm nerves. Flower essences, kava, passionflower and lavender oil are also useful in helping to alleviate anxiety

Jet Lag

OK , so you have made it ; but for those who have crossed a few time zones your 24 hour internal clock is likely off, resulting in “jet lag”- fatigue, irritability and insomnia. This occurs when your internal clock doesn’t match your current time zone, leading to a “mix up of your days and nights.” In general, the more time zones crossed, the worse the jet lag.

However, there are a number of ways to reduce or prevent jet jag . You can gradually adjust your sleep schedule in the days prior to travel to more closely match the time zone of your destination. In addition while traveling drink lots of water, set your watch to the time of your destination as soon as you depart, take power naps, and try to get accustomed to your new schedule as soon as you land.

To adapt to your new location , first take a walk or go outside for 20 to 30 minutes during the brightest part of the day . Then, as bedtime approaches, turn the lights off and relax. For those who like to watch TV before going to bed – be careful as the light from the television can suppress your natural melatonin secretion and make it harder to fall asleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate the body’s 24 hour clock. Take melatonin supplements to help prevent or reduce jet lag


Bacteria such as E. coli, can often lead to traveler’s diarrhea. A few precautionary measures can prevent this.

• Take ( beneficial intestinal bacteria) before and during your trip to boost the health of your digestive tract.

• Drink only bottled or boiled water. Depending on the location it may be necessary to use this water to brush your teeth.

• Wash your hands frequently.

• Clean and peel all fruits and vegetables.

• Eat freshly cooked dishes that are well done and steaming hot.

• Do not drink unpasteurized dairy products, raw fish and meat.

Remember the traveler’s motto: “Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.”

If you do get diarrhoea , rest and drink lots of fluids. On the other hand many people become constipated the minute they leave the comfort of their homes. Exercise, increasing fluid and fibre intake , probiotic supplementation and aloe vera drinks will help to “ loosen the pipes “.

Tips for a comfortable flight

Unless you are in first class, flying is generally not one of the more enjoyable parts of any trip. The following rules will help you to stay healthy before and after your flight.

1.     Avoid alcohol and caffeine directly before and during your flight. Drink purified water, ideally 8 ounces for every hour you are in the air.

2.     Carry along nutritious snacks such as dried fruit and nuts rather than junk food

3.     Immune system support is vital during travel. The day before flying I increase my daily intake of Vitamin C to 6000 mg and increase my intake of antioxidants Schizandra Plus ®and Rose Ox ®. I also take these supplements during the flight.

4.    Wear several layers of comfortable clothes. This will help you to adjust for temperature fluctuations.

5.    While on the plane get as much exercise as you can- walking up and down the aisle, doing stretching exercises in your seat all help to reduce discomfort, especially swelling of legs and feet. These exercises will increase circulation and prevent the development of blood clots in the legs – deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

DR. JACQUELINE E. CAMPBELL B.Sc. (Hons) M.Phil. (Pharmacology) M.B., B.S.

Dr. Jacqueline Elaine Campbell is a family physician whose special interests are Pharmacology, and the use of Alternative/Complementary Medicine in the treatment of diabetes and other diseases that are common in Jamaica.

She is the author of A Patient’s Guide to the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus.




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