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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Spending a little time to pack basic remedies into your vacation luggage will prepare you for whatever minor mishaps fall your way along the wayside! No, you can't prepare against every minor ailment...you'd need a pharmacy. However, certain problems cause the bulk of distress that travelers experience.

Pack any and all prescription medications.
Add your favorite headache medicine. Headache is a common problem travelers experience, often due to driving "into the sun" or spending time outdoors during afternoon's glare. Pack (and use!) sunglasses to avoid a headache. Pack Tylenol and/or a member of the "NSAID" family of medicines: Aspirin, Advil/Motrin (generic: ibuprofen), or Alleve (generic: naprosyn).
Put medications for your tummy in your bags. Travelers also frequently become constipated or have diarrhea.
* For constipation, avoid the problem by eating fresh, fibrous fruit...apples, raisins, pears, etc...and staying well-hydrated. Pack Correctol (or other favorite laxative) and use per package directions at bedtime; medication should work the following morning. Stimulate action by drinking something warm or eating a light breakfast.
* For diarrhea: Avoiding diarrhea is difficult; even just drinking different water from a new locale...yes, even clean water...can cause it. Avoid buffets where the food sitting out looks obviously stale. Pack Immodium (generic: Loperamide) and take per package directions. Allow yourself at least one hour for the medication to work.
Pack medicines for allergies. Travelers may come into contact with new allergens on their vacations. For external relief of minor itching and redness, pack Benadryl or Hydrocortisone cream, and follow package direction. If itch remains unrelieved, numb the itchy area using an ice pack. Internally taken allergy tablets available over the counter are Benadryl (generic: diphenhydramine) and Claritin (generic: Loratadine). Benadryl can cause drowsiness, and is even used as an over the counter sleep remedy! Best for use at bedtime. Claritin does not cause drowsiness, so it's best for daytime use.
Add band-aids and antibiotic cream to your kit. If you'll be walking all day touring a new city or theme park, you'll be at risk for developing blisters. Don't ever wear brand-new shoes when touring on foot. Use comfortable, tried-and-tested shoes. (The antibiotic cream will help prevent any cuts and scratches from becoming infected, as well.)
Pack medicine for getting rid of gas. Bloating and passing gas can be uncomfortable and embarassing. Avoid any foods while on vacation which have caused this problem for you in the past. Try Simethicone 80 mg. or 125 mg. tablets or capsules. (Simethicone is a generic name; this medication can be found in many different brands of gas-relief products.)
Pack pads/tampons. Women should pack spare sanitary supplies.
Pack sunglasses and sunscreen. Vacationers to the great outdoors are at risk for sunburn. Avoid this by limiting sun exposure during mid-day.

* Packing prescription medication is one of the most important items you can bring on your trip...but you can't pack them too early because you'll need to keep taking them every day. Solution: Make a "last minute checklist." Put "to-do" items on it like "turn off stove," "double check for cash and credit cards" and "pack prescriptions!"
* Having your prescriptions available at all times is so important to the success of your entire vacation that you should have a back-up plan in case they get lost. Pack a second bottle of the most vital medications in a separate bag. Consider moving your prescription to a national chain of pharmacies...one which has an outlet at your destination. Then, you can replace missing meds easily.
* Pack all prescriptions in their labeled bottles for travel. HINT: If you do split your prescription medications (carry on/checked luggage), ask your pharmacist to fill your prescriptions that way. DO NOT split your medications into unlabeled bottles, especially in your carry on luggage to foreign countries, as customs agents may assume these are illicit drugs! Even better, ask your physician to print a list of all your medications and enclose a copy in the ziplock for each set of medications.
* Women: it's a good idea to pack thrush medication if you do have a tendency towards thrush. (it beats trying to explain what you need to a chemist in a country where you might not speak the language!)
* BONUS TIPS FROM A BOARD-CERTIFIED PHYSICIAN: Your physician may be willing to prescribe medications that could be extremely useful on prolonged, foreign travels. A few suggestions for prescription-only medications (always verify with your physician and, if possible, call a physician before starting): BACTROBAN OINTMENT (apply to skin twice a day) - though it looks like bacitracin ointment, it is a powerful skin antibiotic that can do things only antibiotics by mouth used to do (staph and strep skin infections are common among travelers). CIPROFLOXIN 1000mg (take 1/2 - 1 by mouth 2 times/day): an antibiotic with myriad uses - bloody diarrhea, cough with fever or colored phlegm, bladder infections, etc. etc. NOT if you are allergic. As mentioned, it's best to try a medication ON THE GROUND and AT HOME to make sure you do not have an allergy. Also, women on birth control, when taking an antibiotic you must use alternate protection during intercourse, as antibiotics may temporarily inactivate your birth control. PHENERGAN 25mg tablets (1-2 by mouth every 4-6 hours): prescription pills that reduce nausea - may control motion sickness and coughing as well, but will cause drowsiness. MOTRIN 800mg (1 with meals up to three times daily) This anti-inflammatory, available as 200mg over-the-counter (see above), has multiple uses ranging from fever to aches and sprains. NOT if you are allergic to aspirin or other NSAIDS, pregnant, on blood thinners (coumadin, daily aspirin, etc.), or have a history of stomach ulcers or kidney diseases. There are many more prescriptions that can be life or limb saving in remote areas or for unique travels (tropical, high altitude, malaria-infested, etc.) An experienced physician or travel medicine clinic can tailor a prescription-level emergency medical kit to your special needs if given enough time and details of your itinerary. Don't forget to start (up to 6 months) in advance to make best use of important vaccines, such as for hepatitis B and hepatitis A. The above medical details are provided for information and education. Travelers should consult their own physicians for individual diagnostic and treatment advice.


* Never drive under the influence of a prescription that causes drowsiness.
* Do not take any medicine you have not tried before, as side affects will be more difficult to cope with in an unfamiliar location.
* If you haven't taken Claritin before, don't pack it. It can cause mood swings, depression, sleep loss, loss of appetite and paranoia in some people.


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