August is a month reserved for traveling by many people. With the price of gas as high as it is, some may be doing away with road trips, and opting to travel to faraway places by boat, train, or airplane. I want to give you some tips for a few pesky symptoms that may arise from such travel, and that do not necessarily require a prescription. But first, a few general “musts” you should know before going anywhere.
General Travel “Musts”

• If you are traveling out of the United States, find out about any immunizations, or treatment, you may need before you go. Some countries require you to show proof of certain immunizations. To find out about this, ask your healthcare provider, find a travel clinic in your area, or go to www.cdc.gov and click on “Traveler’s Health.” It is always best to do this as far in advance of your trip as possible; BUT you also need to find out about any new outbreaks of infection in your country of destination right before you go.

• If you have chronic health issues, make sure your primary healthcare provider knows where you are going, and for how long. Also make sure to take enough of your regular medications, as well as a simple list of your medical history that includes your allergies, all of your medications, and your health conditions. If you have heart problems, take along a copy of your most recent EKG. (These now are available in a wallet size.)

Ask your primary care provider if you should take any prescription medications, such as antibiotics or anti-diarrhea medication, with you on your trip as a precautionary measure.
Now, on to specific and common symptoms.

Jet Lag

No matter who you are, how much you have traveled, or how old you are, jet lag can happen if you travel through multiple time zones. The symptoms are fatigue, irritability, trouble sleeping and being disoriented. It takes about one day to adjust to each time zone crossed. If you cross three time zones, it will take about 3 days to recover. There are several ways you can reduce the symptoms of jet lag:

•Go on your trip rested (Easy, right? NOT).

• Start going to sleep an hour earlier or later a couple of nights before your trip to match the time you will be going to bed at your destination. If you are going east, it will be later. If you are going west it will be earlier.

•Be well-hydrated before you leave, and stay hydrated on your flight. Try to sleep on the plane.

•Once you get to your destination, the hormone, melatonin, which is one of the body clock’s controllers, and can be bought over the counter, can help. Take 0.5 mgs an hour before your normal bedtime for the first three nights of your trip. (Of course, check with your doc to make sure it is OK for you to take it.)

•There is a homeopathic remedy called “No Jet Lag”. I got this at AAA and it worked for me!

•There is an “anti-jet lag diet” that was developed by Dr Charles F. Ehret. It begins three days prior to departure and alternates feast and fast days and ends with a high protein breakfast. You can check it out at: http://www.antijetlagdiet.com/. Be sure to check out this diet with your doctor if you have health problems, especially diabetes, heart disease and/or high blood pressure, or liver, or kidney, failure.

Finally, if you are one of those people that have terrible problems with jet lag, you might want to consider alternative modes of transportation such as trains and boats!

Seasickness

Seasickness is much easier to prevent than to treat. Once you have it, it can take a while to go away. There are some natural remedies you can try:

•Ginger is commonly used to prevent seasickness. It can be taken in a capsule form or in a tea. Ginger can cause heartburn and can give an aftertaste, but it is considered to be generally safe. (Unfortunately, ginger ale, the treatment prescribed by most of our mothers, doesn’t have much ginger in it!)

•Sea Bands or wristbands use acupressure to prevent seasickness. They apply pressure at a point about an inch and half above the underside of the wrist where the bands are placed. Many people swear by them!

•Homeopathic remedies can also be prescribed for seasickness prevention.

•If the natural remedies don’t work, there are some medications such as such as Dramamine pills or Scopolamine patches that can help.

Constipation

When we travel, often our schedules and routines are disrupted. This can lead to …constipation! The best ways to avoid this are to exercise, drink plenty of water and to try and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables in order to regularize your bowel movements before you leave. Knowing that it is hard to eat regularly and exercise while traveling there are some things you can take. There are some natural over-the-counter remedies such as one called “fruit-ease.” This is a natural laxative. Taking ground up flax seed and adding it to your food can help, but you would need to keep it cold so it doesn’t go bad. If you don’t have a problem with using an over-the-counter medication, Miralax is great. It is safe, effective and easy to use. You just take a capful of powder, dissolve it in water, juice, coffee or tea, and it works! Do not use other laxatives without checking with your healthcare provider first; some types may be dangerous, particularly if you have other health issues. Also, make sure to drink enough fluids while you travel, but be careful of the water in certain countries!

Food Poisoning
There are a variety of causes of food poisoning. When the symptoms are severe, or last more than a day or two, you may need medical treatment. However, for mild diarrhea or nausea there are some things you can do:

•Drink plenty of fluids

•Barley or rice water can soothe the digestive tract

•Probiotics can support and maintain the healthy bacteria in the gut.

•Ginger can improve nausea either in capsule or tea form.

•Some people recommend apple cider vinegar as an anti-bacterial agent. It is generally taken as two teaspoons in one cup of warm water that is taken several times a day.

•Certain herbs have been used for different types of food poisoning. But you should always check with your primary care provider before you take them to make sure they are safe for you.

Milk thistle has been used for Amanita mushroom poisoning. Asian ginseng, Astragalus, Chinese cinnamon bark, Ginger root, Licorice, Peony root and Skullcap have been used early in the course of Listeria food poisoning outbreaks seen with contaminated hot dogs, raw milk and cheese, deli meats, raw poultry and raw meats. However, this is an infection that can cause you to become very ill as it can remain in the bloodstream. (See below for warnings.)

• There are several homeopathic remedies for food poisoning as well that are best prescribed by a Homeopathic physician.

Please note: it is very important that if you develop a high fever, cannot keep fluids down and become dehydrated, have severe abdominal cramping, have shaking chills, or have nausea and vomiting or diarrhea that persists longer than a few days, you need to seek medical attention no matter what country you are in.

Bottom line: Check with your primary care provider before you go; get yourself into as good a shape as possible (rested, hydrated, and with regular BM’s) before you leave; make sure you take your regular meds with you; take a list of your medical history with you; and … Bon Voyage!

Dr. Robin Miller's career as a physician has been quite varied. She currently serves as the medical director of Triune Integrative Medicine, a highly innovative Integrative Medicine clinic in Medford, Oregon. She is also a medical reporter for KOBI Channel 5, the NBC affiliate in Medford. She has produced the award-winning health series, “Is there a Doctor in the House,” which is shown on the GE-sponsored Patient Channel nationwide. She is a medical columnist for The Daily Courier in Grant's Pass, Oregon, and the host of a teen health podcast. Robin has written the book Kids Ask the Doctor and the book Confessions of the Soul Straight from the Heart.