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Summer Travel In Your Plans?

by the Social Diary Health Expert Columnist Ruth S. Jacobowitz
Column #12, May 15th, 2006

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy” and the flying is hard and vacation time is just around the corner. In fact, I’ve talked to more people who are off on trips in May and June and flying off to join cruise ships, river cruises, or to tour overseas. Inevitably lately the subject of protecting one's health while traveling comes up and people are investigating and investing in various items to protect themselves.

One of the items that more and more people seem to be putting into their air travel carry-aboard luggage is surgical masks. If this keeps up we won’t recognize anyone aboard. The masks do help, however, to protect you in the low-oxygen cabin environment. It would be terrific if all passengers on every flight protected themselves by wearing a mask or dampened handkerchief or both. Just put the dampened hankie inside the mask since layers do help. The tightness of mask fit to the face is key. Like any filter, if air can bypass it, it is no good no matter how efficient you think it is. Another great idea is to bring along an extra mask to offer to someone seated nearby who is coughing and sneezing.

Further, take along hand wipes and use one before you eat and to wipe off the table or tray that your food is placed upon.

Different kinds of air purification devices are available and more passengers are bringing them along. The most commonly used are air filters that work simply by trapping microorganisms and particles from the air. But there are other kinds that you may want to research. The one I see on flights most often is a personal air purifier to protect your breathing zone, is smaller than your cell phone and creates an electronic shield around the wearer. It’s designed to just hang around your neck and create a particle-free zone around the wearer of approximately 20 inches in all directions. I’ve also seen another model recently that sits between two people and is said to provide clean air for two. It’s a bit larger and sits on the arm rest.

Before you use your air purification device, shut the overhead air vent above your seat in an airplane. Many respiratory infections can circulate and be transmitted to you through that vent, especially the common cold.

Support hose and medical compression stockings are other good healthful travel choices. Both maintain circulation in your legs, particularly useful on long flights, and may ward off blood clots. Compression stockings are the only clinically proven elastic stockings that have been shown to almost completely remove the risk of contracting a deep vein thrombosis on a long haul flight.

Even when wearing compression travel stockings, it is important to exercise your legs during the flight. If you are in an aisle seat and circumstances permit then walk up and down the aisle. If you are unable to get out of your seat, you should exercise your legs by alternately raising your heels and pressing down on your toes and then raising your toes and pressing down on your heels. Do this 25 times every half hour. It is better not to fall asleep in a cramped position for hours at a time.

Further, you should drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic drinks during the flight. If you take an alcoholic drink you should also consume at least twice the volume of water or fruit juice. Likewise if you drink coffee you should also consume extra water.

When traveling, it is vital that you pack carefully and plan ahead to prevent illness. Don’t forget to do the following:

*Bring all of your medications with you and bring extra along just in case of delays. It’s best to keep each prescription in its original bottle or box. Also bring prescriptions with you that list both the brand and generic names just in case your medications are lost or stolen and you need to replace them in a foreign country. I also include several kinds of anti-biotics for various ills as prescribed by my physician. Then I can telephone her from wherever I am, describe my symptoms and, if appropriate, she can tell me which to take, how frequently and for how long.

*Create and bring along your basic first aid kit. Include pain killers, decongestants, antibiotic ointment, anti-diarrhea medications, bandages, and motion sickness medication and whatever else you might require and take along extra glasses or contact lenses as well as the prescription for them.

* Ruth S. Jacobowitz is a health advocate, lecturer, and the author of five consumer health books and a lecturer on health matters. Her newest book is Final Acts—a novel. Visit Ruth at her web site www.ruthjacobowitz.com .

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