14 September 2015

Destination: Safe Travels

by Hannah Betke, Secretary/Tech at MBSH Therapy & Wellness Center

The vacation season may be winding down, but many of us, myself included, will find ourselves still traveling into the fall and winter. As relaxing as vacations are supposed to be, things may come up that hamper that much-needed peace. One can avoid some of these hiccups if one is, as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, "proactive, prepared, and protected."

Chances are, if you have been planning a trip, you have been doing so for a long time. In my case, my upcoming trip to London has been in the works since August of 2014.  When visiting a new area, state, or country, try to anticipate any problems that you may have during your trip. The CDC advises that you educate yourself on your destination. Find out if there are any events occurring that may impede your travels, such as large sporting events, visits from dignitaries or officials, or any political unrest that may be present. They also suggest speaking with your physician, catching up on any vaccinations that may be required for that area, and making sure that you are healthy enough to travel.

Your health is paramount. Even though coming down with an illness is not something we want to think about, it can happen. You are not exempt from a cold in Barbados, no matter what that Mai Tai is telling you. Include in your bag the basic medicine cabinet staples, such as pain relievers, fever reducers, cough suppressants, and digestive medicines, and you may avoid sending your travel mate to a nearby drug store in the middle of the night. You will be glad that you were prepared, and your companion will be glad you let them sleep. Pack extra doses of any prescriptions that you take regularly, just in case your flight gets delayed…or you decide to stay a few extra days. Remember TSA's fluid restriction rule "3-1-1." You can carry as many 3 oz. bottles as you can fit in one 1 qt. clear bag. Put this bag in an accessible part of your luggage to aid in your journey through the dreaded lines at security check points.

Again, remember that the same dangers we face at home - sunburn, illness, car accidents, theft - exist in the far reaches of the earth. Slather on the sunscreen, buckle up, and don't drink and drive. Your mom may have similarly nagged you, but she was right, at least about those things. Protect your possessions from pickpockets by storing your valuables in multiple places. Store them in various pockets including hidden ones, and consider using a money belt, which is invisible under most clothing. Make copies of your identification and credit cards to leave at your hotel and with your relatives back at home. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts, especially if you are traveling alone or with a very small group.

Airplanes are magical inventions that take us to far away and exotic places, such as Paris, or Delaware, but they also can be crowded with people, and therefore, germs. Aircraft humidity level is also very low, drying out our nasal membranes and leaving us more susceptible to infection. An article in Prevention Magazine suggests drinking lots of water, using a saline nasal spray, keeping your hands away from your face, and positioning your personal overhead air vent so that any airborne particles, say, from a sneeze, will not blow toward your nose (Prevention, 2011).

Lugging your bags around and hefting them into the overhead compartments can also cause injury if you lack core and upper body strength. Kerri Wallace, MPT (physical therapist), from Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital Therapy and Wellness, suggests the following when traveling with heavy bags:

If possible, use luggage that has wheels.

  1. If you must carry luggage, keep it close to your body and switch sides frequently.
  2. Do not hold or carry luggage longer than necessary.  Set it down for a break when you are standing in lines and waiting.
  3. Protect your lumbar and cervical spine when you are pushing, pulling, or carrying a piece of luggage with these proper body mechanics:
    1. Pull in your low belly.
    2. Tighten your buttocks.
    3. Avoid shrugging or tensing your shoulders.
    4. Lift with your legs when possible by bending at the knees, not the waist.
  4. Arrive early enough that you don't have to sprint across the airport. Being rushed or preoccupied could affect your use of these good practices if they have not become habit.

Long plane rides can wreak havoc on your lymphatic system, as well. Jenica Brown, MOT, OTR/L, CLT, (occupational and certified lymphedema therapist), also of Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital Therapy and Wellness, advises us to do the following activities to avoid swelling:

  • Breathe deeply- diaphragmatic breathing is the one thing you can do on a plane, no matter how close the quarters, to prevent swelling.
  • Compression is key- invest in a properly fitted pair of compression stockings, especially if you are going on a long flight. These will aid your lymphatic system, thereby helping to prevent swelling.
  • Get moving- intervals of standing, walking, and sitting will help with overall circulation and reduce the risk of fluid blockage and volume build-up.
  • Drink up-Increased water intake will help you stay hydrated, aid kidney function, and help to expel toxins.

These are just a few things you can do to avoid injury or illness on the way to your big vacation, even if it is just to your aunt's house for Thanksgiving.

 If you will be dealing with a time difference, try setting your clocks, both internal and external, to your destination's time zone as soon as you take off.  Try sleeping on the plane if it is nighttime where you are headed.  If you can't seem to fall asleep, try taking some melatonin.  Your instinct may be to resort to alcohol, but that will actually "disrupt your sleep and leave you less rested" (Prevention Magazine, 2007).  Melatonin will reap the desired results naturally.

I have been researching tips and tricks for travel for years now. (Seriously, you should see my "Travel Tips" Pinterest board.  It is massive!) My upcoming trip is a dream come true; one that I have had for as long I can remember.  I will do whatever I can, within reason, to have the best trip possible, since this may be my only opportunity.  I cannot wait to stroll through the London fog, mind the gap, and see what games are afoot!

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