Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

How to Stay Healthy During Flu Season

February 9th, 2017. Filed Under: Allergies, Cough and Cold, Influenza, Travel.
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It’s been a nasty flu season so far. Over the holidays I see family members that don’t get out too much, and one of my cousins asked me, “How do you avoid getting sick during the winter months, when your job requires you to be exposed to sick people all day long?”

There are two habits that can REALLY help you avoid infections from viruses like colds and the flu. One of the most important is also simple, yet not always easy to do: avoid touching your face with your hands, because that is how viruses can easily infect you. As much as possible, avoid using your hands to rub your nose, rub your eyes, or touch your mouth. I admit, it’s a hard habit to break, but it does cut down on your exposure to viruses.

The second key habit to avoid getting the flu is to wash your hands frequently and EFFECTIVELY. Unfortunately, most people, even medical professionals, don’t wash their hands well enough. Wiping your hands with antibacterial gel is just not good enough if you want to avoid getting sick from viruses.

Friction is more important than chemicals. Washing your hands by lathering with soap, then rubbing the surfaces thoroughly has been proved more effective than using an antibacterial gel or soap. Two of the most neglected areas are between your fingers and along your cuticles.

After years as a hospital pharmacist I’ve developed a serious allergic reaction to triclosan, a common antibacterial chemical used in Liquid Dial® and Softsoap®. To avoid having my hands itch and peel after using soaps containing it, I avoid all antibacterial soaps as much as possible. Instead, I carry a small bottle of liquid shampoo with me to wash my hands in hotels, restaurants, airports and some family member’s homes that still contain liquid antibacterial soaps.

Here are a few tips to help you stay healthier during the winter months:

  1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. You DON’T have to use antibacterial soap, just good technique.
  2. The key to good hand washing technique is FRICTION. Lather up and rub every surface well, spreading your fingers apart to get in between them.
  3. When washing your hands, don’t neglect to rub the lather into your cuticles, where viruses can easily hide.
  4. To avoid contact with the chemical soaps found in most airport and restaurant restrooms, carry a hotel-sized bottle of liquid shampoo that you can use instead.

 

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Which Medicine to Pack When You Travel

Q: What medicines should I pack when going out of town? We have several trips planned and I want to make sure I have the right stuff.

With summer here, traveling gives you a chance to get away from your usual routine and see new horizons. Unfortunately, you can get injured or sick whether you are at home or on the road. If you aren’t prepared, motion sickness, intestinal disturbances and minor injuries can derail you from enjoying family gatherings or vacations.

Before you walk out the door to your adventure make sure you’ve packed all of your regular prescription medicines and a current list of all your medications. I recommend using pillboxes when taking your medicines on the road with you. Packing a pillbox instead of taking all your pill bottles with you takes up far less space and is less disastrous if you accidently leave your pills behind somewhere. Using pillboxes has another advantage when packing for a trip: filling up your pillboxes before you leave will alert you to when you’ll run out of medicine before you get back home.

What if you discover that you don’t have enough doses to last until you return? If you usually get a 30-day supply of pills, you can ask your doctor to refill it for a larger quantity, like 90 days. You could also explain to your pharmacist that you’ll be gone when your next refill is due to be filled, and ask if you can refill your medicine early. Some insurance programs allow one early refill or “vacation refill” per year for certain medicines. If you have to pick up your refills every time from the doctor’s office, you’ll need to plan ahead with your doctor and pharmacist. Medicines for pain or anxiety that can’t be called or faxed to the nearest pharmacy can cause problems if you need more while out of town.

When traveling outside the United States, be extra cautious about your food and drinks to avoid spending your vacation visiting the local bathrooms instead of the beaches or museums. Always avoid ice: never drink a freshly opened bottle of water or soda that has been poured over ice! But if you do end up with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea on your trip, AVOID taking anti-inflammatory medicines such as naproxen (Aleve®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin-IB®) for pain, swelling or fever. Taking naproxen or ibuprofen while dehydrated can seriously damage your kidneys. Seriously! Until you can keep fluids down, if you need a painkiller, take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) instead.

Along with your prescription medicines I recommend packing some non-prescription medications to treat common conditions that may arise. Here’s what I always bring on a trip:

  1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Relieves aches, pains and fever, including tension headache from staring at maps and backache from riding all day in cars or planes.
  2. Meclizine (Bonine®, Dramamine® Non-Drowsy Formula). My personal favorite is chewable 25mg tablets to prevent motion sickness. Indispensible when traveling in moving vehicles or roller coasters that go backwards and upside down.
  3. Loperamide (Imodium®-AD). This is the very best way to stop diarrhea in its tracks, so you can spend your vacation on the beach instead of in the bathroom.
  4. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®), the kind you have to sign for. My husband’s ears always get blocked up when he travels by plane, so I make sure we have this for him to protect his ears from painful changes in pressure. Instead of pills you can use naphazoline (Afrin®) nasal spray.
  5. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®). This is a miracle worker for bee stings, bug bites, minor rashes and allergic reactions.
  6. Naproxen, 220mg tablets (Aleve®) or ibuprofen (Advil®). Great for emergencies like tooth pain or muscle aches. DON’T USE IT if you have vomiting or diarrhea, have serious heart failure, are allergic to aspirin, or have had a bleeding ulcer. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol®) instead for aches and pains if you can’t safely take naproxen or its cousin, ibuprofen.
  7. Dried Prunes. I pack these as insurance against constipation. Research shows that eating 5 prunes is just as effective as taking a stool softener, and I adjust the “dose” up or down according to my needs. Don’t like prunes? Pack your favorite laxative instead. I recommend Miralax® because it’s reliable, powerful yet gentle on the body.

Bon voyage and safe travels!

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How to Select a Motion Sickness Medicine

August 16th, 2015. Filed Under: consumer information, medicines, side effects, Travel.

When my daughter came home to visit last week, she ran into a little trouble with motion sickness. This week’s tip shows you how to avoid this happening to you:

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Conquering Queasiness On A Cruise

Q:  I’m going on a cruise to Alaska this summer. Which motion sickness medicine should I take with me?

Even if you’ve never had trouble with motion sickness before, packing something to deal with seasickness is a smart idea.

You have several remedies to pick from: ginger root, over-the-counter remedies such as Dramamine® or Bonine®, and a prescription-only scopolamine patch called Transderm-Scop®. These differ from one another in 3 ways: how long the protective effect lasts, what type of side effects they can cause, and whether or not you actually will experience any side effects. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict whether any medicine will give you side effects, so it’s best if you try it on yourself long before your ship casts off.

Ginger root is the safest option for preventing motion sickness. It has no side effects and is the best choice for children and pregnant women. I wish my parents had known about using ginger – it would have saved me so much misery riding in the back seat of my parents’ station wagon. Discovering it as an adult totally transformed my travel experience.

Ginger should be taken at least 30 minutes before you’ll need it to start working. Each dose is only effective for 4-6 hours, so be prepared to redose several times during the day. You can buy ginger as crystallized chunks of root (cooked with sugar) in the spice aisle, but if its intense hot/sweet taste is not for you, ginger capsules are widely available in the health food section of most grocery stores.

There are 2 antihistamines used for motion sickness prevention available without a prescription: meclizine and dimenhydrinate. Meclizine is my personal choice. It’s available as Bonine® and Dramamine® Less-Drowsy Formula in 25mg tablets, and also as generic meclizine in 2 different strengths, 12.5mg and 25mg. Meclizine works for 24 hours and is taken once a day. It can cause some drowsiness, but how much will vary from person to person. Most people don’t notice much drowsiness, but if you are one of the unlucky ones, one tablet can put you to sleep for the day! Also, watch out, neither antihistamine mixes well with alcohol causing significant drowsiness or confusion.

Buying Dramamine® for motion sickness can be confusing because it comes as two different products: Original and Less-Drowsy. The Less-Drowsy formula contains meclizine; the Original Formula has a shorter-acting antihistamine called dimenhydrinate. Your body turns dimenhydrinate into diphenhydramine, which you may recognize as the generic name of Benadryl®. Benadryl® commonly causes drowsiness and is even sold as a sleeping pills like Sominex-2 and Tylenol-PM. Just like Benadryl®, dimenhydrinate only lasts 4-6 hours, which means you’ll need to redose during the day.

The last motion sickness medicine is Transderm-Scop®, a small, round tan-colored patch applied behind your ear. This prescription-only patch contains scopolamine and lasts for 3 days, longer than any other motion sickness medicine. Scopolamine side effects include dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations, something you definitely want to check out BEFORE you’re depending on it to keep down your dinner. It also shouldn’t be cut or given to a child.

On a trip back home to Seattle from Orlando some years ago I lost track of how long it had been since my last dose of ginger because of the time changes heading westward. I didn’t realize the ginger had worn off until we hit turbulence heading over the Cascade Mountains on the last 30 minutes of the flight. After the very bumpy and utterly miserable descent into Seattle, I vowed to find another option. Today I take meclizine on every trip, although I also pack crystallized ginger pieces if I’m going on a boat. My small tube of chewable meclizine called Bonine® is easy to pack and I keep it refilled from a bottle of 100-count generic 25mg chewable tablets at home. Meclizine is my miracle motion sickness remedy because I only have to chew one tablet a day and I’ve never had drowsiness or any other side effects from it.

Whether you choose to take ginger, meclizine or a scopolamine patch on your cruise, be sure to try it out before you go to avoid getting on the wrong ship because of blurry vision, snoozing your vacation away in your cabin or seeing dancing elephants on the ceiling. Bon voyage!

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Which Medicines to Pack?

Q: What medicines should I travel with? We have several vacations planned this summer and I want to make sure I pack the right stuff.

Vacations are wonderful opportunities to get away from your usual routine and see new horizons. Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t get injured or sick. Motion sickness, aches and pains and intestinal disturbances can derail your vacation if you aren’t prepared.

First, before you walk out the door make sure you’ve packed all of your regular prescription medicines plus a current list of all your medications and your doctor’s name. Using pillboxes for taking your medicines on the road keeps your main bottles at home (less hassle in case you accidently leave your pills behind) and takes up less space. Filling up your pillboxes before you leave also alerts you to whether you’ll need any refills before you return.

If you’re going to need a refill before you get back into town you can either ask for a larger quantity from your doctor or ask if your pharmacist could refill your medicine a little early. Some insurance programs have a grace period of one “vacation refill” per year. If you take prescription pain or anxiety medicines, talk with your doctor or pharmacist beforehand about what to do about refills during the time you will be gone. Some medicine requires a new printed prescription each time you get it filled, which can be very difficult to get if you need another fill while out of town.

When traveling outside the United States, you can avoid spending your vacation visiting the local bathrooms instead of the beaches or museums by being extra cautious about your food and drinks. My daughter made it through 9 months as an exchange student in Bangkok, Thailand with no sickness until buying a snack from a street vendor. She got so sick her host family had to take her to a hospital. Avoid unpeeled fruits, uncooked veggies like salads, and prepared meals that may have been stored at improper temperatures or not completely cooked. With beverages, “boil it, cook it, open it, or forget it”. And watch out for ice cubes or shaved ice: don’t drink a freshly opened bottle of water or soda that has been poured over ice!

If you do end up with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, DON’T take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as naproxen (Aleve®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin-IB®) for pain, swelling or fever. Taking an NSAID like naproxen or ibuprofen while dehydrated can damage your kidneys. Take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) instead.

Along with your prescription medicines be sure to pack some non-prescription medications for common conditions.

Here’s what I bring with me when I travel:

1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Good for tension headache from staring at maps, backache from riding all day in a car, or fever.
2. Meclizine (Bonine®, Dramamine® Non-Drowsy Formula). The chewable 25mg tablets are my go-to motion sickness medicine for trains, planes, boats and cars. Also helpful for amusement park roller coasters that go backwards and upside down.
3. Loperamide (Imodium®-AD). This is the very best way to stop diarrhea in its tracks. I NEVER leave home without it.
4. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®). Since my ears can really plug up when traveling by plane, I make sure I have the original (most effective) formulation with me since in some states it’s now only available by prescription.
5. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®). This is a miracle worker for bee stings, bug bites, minor rashes and allergic reactions. If you have any swelling around your face or tongue, though, seek medical help immediately.
6. Naproxen, 220mg tablets. This NSAID is great for emergencies like tooth pain or muscle aches. Avoid if you take a blood thinner (like aspirin, warfarin or clopidogrel), have serious heart failure, are allergic to aspirin, or have had a bleeding ulcer. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for aches and pains if you can’t safely take an NSAID like naproxen or ibuprofen.
7. Dried Prunes. Prunes, you ask? I pack these as insurance against constipation. It’s been shown that eating 5 prunes is just as effective as taking a stool softener, and I can adjust the “dose” up or down according to my needs. You can pack your favorite laxative instead. I recommend Miralax® because it’s powerful yet gentle on the body.
Bon voyage and safe travels!

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