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Five tips for a healthy vacation

Whether you’re planning a week long trip to the Caribbean or a weekend visiting the in-laws, remember that safeguarding your health on vacation is just as important as what you pack in your suitcase.

“Vacation is a break, but that doesn’t mean you have to forego healthy habits,” says Jeffery Craven, M.D., medical director of The Christ Hospital Urgent Care Center and emergency medicine physician at The Christ Hospital. He suggests five ways you can have a healthy, relaxing and safe vacation:

1. Keep your physician in the loop.

You don’t need to book an extra ticket for your doctor, but you should let him know your travel plans, so he can prepare you for any unexpected health issues. Here’s how your doctor can help:

  • Provide you with an updated list of medications.
  • Refill prescriptions to last your entire trip.
  • Administer key immunizations for travel abroad. (Hint: The Centers for Disease and Prevention has a complete guide for healthy travel.) “Check with the destination country to find out what vaccinations are required,” Dr. Craven notes. Tetanus and flu shots are two common vaccines you should be up-to-date with.
  • Advise you on any special health precautions you need to take based on your medical history and your travel plans. 

2. Set a few ‘table’ rules.

Overindulging in food and alcohol is an easy vacation mistake. “One of the most effective strategies is controlling portion sizes,” Dr. Craven notes. At mealtime, load your plate with 80 percent fresh vegetables and fruit and 20 percent with anything else. And, if you’re used to drinking a glass of wine every night, don’t drink three just because you’re on vacation. Excess alcohol can impair your judgment, cause dehydration and lead to sleep disturbances.

If your carry-on allows, pack pre-portioned packets of nuts and dried fruit, low-sugar energy bars or fruit chips for snacking between meals.

3. Stay active.

“There’s a certain tendency for people to feel that because they are on vacation, the standard rules don’t apply to your health,” Dr. Craven says. Get creative with how you’ll work in at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity each day, but don’t overexert yourself if you’re not used to getting a lot of exercise.

Traveling with family? Do a little research and plan the activities you want to try before you arrive at your destination. You’ll have less planning (and stress) to deal with during the trip.

And don’t forget to protect your skin and stay hydrated if you’re spending time outdoors.

4. Handle food with care.

If your meals require a cooler and grill rather than restaurant reservations, you’ll need to follow safe food-handling tips to avoid foodbourne illness. Wash or sanitize your hands before and after handling food. Meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs and other perishables should be stored at 40 F or below. When grilling meats and poultry, cook them to an appropriate internal temperature of 130 F for steaks and intact cuts of beef, and 160-165 F for ground meats and poultry. Download a handy resource sheet for safe food temperatures. Don’t forget to pack up the leftovers within one hour to avoid bacterial growth.

“Typical food poisoning symptoms may be due to ingestion of staph bacterial toxins and usually include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that last longer than 12 hours,” says Dr. Craven. “If you experience prolonged diarrhea, fever, blood or mucus in the stool, abdominal distension or decreased urine output, consult an urgent care or emergency department promptly as you may have ongoing bacterial or viral infection.”

5. Rest. Relax. Repeat.

Every person has different sleep needs, but sticking closely to your normal schedule will keep your energy levels consistent and help protect your immune system. Switching time zones? Give your internal clock time to reset by catching a few extra Zzzs.

“Remember, vacation is supposed to be a break from our daily routine,” Dr. Craven says. “Try to live in the moment and enjoy the time off rather than over-scheduling your days.”

For more vacation health advice, find a primary care physician near you by calling 877-904-4YOU or visiting www.TheChristHospital.com.

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