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Safety First, by Air, Land and Sea

separator Most vacations go off without a hitch, but we’ve all heard horror stories. The broken leg on a hiking trip, the bug bite that needed emergency treatment, the allergic reaction that caused someone’s throat to swell.

Here are some reminders to help you avoid or manage these and other pitfalls as you and your family take off on your spring and summer wanderings.

Avoiding diarrhea
Diarrhea is the most common illness among travelers. You can get diarrhea when you’ve consumed food or water that’s been contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites. For the best chances of avoiding diarrhea:

  • Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if you’ve peeled them yourself. Wash them thoroughly before you peel, and wash your hands after you peel.
  • Eat or drink dairy products only that you know have been pasteurized.
  • Don’t eat under cooked beef or poultry.
  • Drink only bottled water if you have any doubt about the safety of tap water. And remember that if tap water isn’t safe, ice cubes made from tap water aren’t safe either.
  • Carry calcium supplements with you in case you do get diarrhea. For some people, calcium can help shorten diarrhea’s duration.

Road trips 
Car accidents are a leading cause of injury for travelers. To keep yourself safe on the road:

  • Try to avoid driving in unfamiliar territory at night.
  • Don’t use cruise control when it’s raining. There’s been an e-mail circulating that says cruise control causes cars to speed up suddenly during a rain storm, causing the car to spin out of control. According to the March/April issue of AAA World, cruise control doesn’t cause such a phenomenon. Instead, cars are simply more likely to get out of control during the rain, and it’s best to have your foot on the pedal, not on the floor, when that happens.
  • If motion sickness is a problem, try using wrist bands that press on acupressure points that control nausea. Make sure you wear the bands correctly. You can get them at most drug stores or health food stores. Another option is to mix half a teaspoon of powdered ginger in a glass of water. Ginger has an anti-nausea effect.
  • Take breaks if you become drowsy while driving. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should get more sleep than usual when you’re on a road trip. You should also stop regularly. And when you know the drowsiness is getting the best of you, pull over somewhere safe and take a 15 to 20 minute nap.
  • Keep kids in their car seats.
  • If you’re a member of an automobile club, make sure you membership fees are paid up before your trip starts.

Have the basics in a first aid kit
You’ll need to pack

  • Pain relievers for adults and children
  • Antihistamines for allergic reactions
  • Insect repellant (the most effective ones contain DEET) for adults and children
  • Sunscreen
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Gauze and tape
  • Nail clippers
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • Tissues
  • Towelettes
  • Thermometers
  • Antacid

If you’re going hiking…

  • Stick with the buddy system. Hiking alone is not a good idea.
  • Do your best to make sure that a park ranger knows you’re going on a hike. Often times, there are sign-up sheets near trails. It’s a good idea to fill these out.
  • Don’t let children wander off alone. They can become disoriented extremely quickly.

Around the water…

  • Don’t leave children unattended, whether you’re at a lake, an ocean beach, a pool, etc. Trouble can happen suddenly, and there should always be an adult in charge. In fact, even adults shouldn’t swim alone.
  • Insist on life jackets if you’re on a boat.
  • Be sure to slather on the suntan lotion. The water reflects the sun’s rays and makes the burning potential even greater.

If your pet is with you…
If you’re going on a road trip with your dog or cat, avoid the heartbreak of accidents by:

  • Making sure your pet is on a leash any time it’s not in the car. Even if your pet is well trained and listens to your commands, being in unfamiliar territory can makes its behavior unpredictable.
  • When you get out of the car for rest breaks, be sure your pet doesn’t have enough lead space on the leash to jump out into oncoming traffic.
  • Be sure to have water available.
  • Don’t leave your pet in the car, even if the windows are rolled down a little. The car heats up inside even when the weather’s mild. Your pet can overheat and die within about 10 minutes.
  • If you’re taking your pet on an activity that’s new to it, such as hiking, be sure to get in some practice hikes before you take your real trip.
  • You need to make sure your animal will be able to keep up.
  • Be sure flea and tick prevention treatment is up to date.

If you’re flying…
Drink plenty of water while you’re in flight. The dry, recirculated air in planes dries out your nasal passages and makes you more vulnerable to airborne germs.

Sitting for long periods of time in one position increases your risk of developing a blood clot. That’s why your risk increases when you’re on a long plane trip. What can you do to keep your risk low?

  • Move around during the flight
  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat light meals
  • Move even while you’re in your seat, flexing and stretching your joints and muscles

You’re at greater risk if

  • You’ve recently had surgery
  • You take birth control pills
  • You are considered obese
  • You have a history of blood clots
  • If you are at increased risk, talk with your doctor before you go on a long flight.

Get paperwork in order
Check your insurance before you go to find out what to do if there’s an emergency and you need a doctor while you’re gone. Have your doctor’s number handy on your trip. If you’re taking medication, write down the number of your pharmacy in case you lose the drugs and you need to call for a re-fill. It’s a good idea to write down the number of the poison control center too. The national number is 1-800-222-1222.

Let common sense prevail
Basically, the best advice for any trip this spring and summer is to stay calm and use common sense when anything unexpected happens. If you’re in an unfamiliar place, don’t walk around alone at night, for example. Find out ahead of time about things like weather conditions, likelihood of flooding or tornadoes. Let friends know your itinerary, and make sure people know when to expect you home.

Stay alert, and think twice. You want to relax and have fun, but you don’t want to be so relaxed that you make impractical decisions.

AAA World, March/April 2004; American Red Cross; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Sleep Foundation.
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