Hives and Itchy Rashes – When You Need Relief Fast! The Travel Pharmacist

hives and itchy rashesComing down with an itchy rash or bad case of hives while traveling can be a pretty miserable experience. You need relief and you need it fast. Hives are pretty easy to figure out. If you’ve just eaten something unusual and you break out with red, itchy patches of skin – typically on the chest, arm, or legs – it’s a good chance you’ve got hives. If you’re just in from the sun, taking an unfamiliar medicine, or under a great deal of stress, and those same areas are covered with red, swollen areas that itch intensely, yes – it’s probably hives.

As with other allergic reactions, when the body perceives a threat, it releases histamines. Histamines cause itching, swelling, and redness. Our bodies can even interpret environmental factors like illness and emotional stress as an enemy attack. It’s important to be cautious the first time you get hives and itchy rashes because they can be one of the first symptoms of anaphylactic shock.

Finding The Culprit

Most cases of hives can be traced to one (or even more than one) of the factors below:

NUTS – peanuts, walnuts, or Brazil nuts

SEAFOOD – shrimp, clams, other shellfish

MEDICATIONS – penicillin, flu vaccines, tetanus shots

FOODS – strawberries, milk, wheat

THE GREAT OUTDOORS – grass, poison ivy, poison sumac

INSECT BITES/STINGS – bees, ants, wasps, hornets

ENVIRONMENTAL PRESSURES – cold, heat, sunshine, latex

EMOTIONAL/PHYSICAL STRESS – infections, exercise, travel stress

What To Do For Relief

1. First, and most important, you (or your doctor) must identify what is causing the problem and get away from it as quickly as possible. If you’ve just eaten a particular food or taken a new medicine, stop ingesting it immediately and watch carefully for further signs of allergic reaction. If it’s a medication, call your doctor so she can advise you on stopping it safely. If the sun is the problem, keep covered or stay in the shade until the bumps subside.

2. Avoid exposing hives to heat, or rubbing the itchy areas. When the rash is warmed or rubbed, the more histamine may be released.

3. For fast relief while you’re deciding on the root cause, apply cold, moistened compresses to the itchy area. A cup of plain oatmeal in the bathwater can also provide soothing relief. The colloid (or glue-like substance) in oatmeal starch acts as skin protectant, adds moisture, and soothes irritated and itchy skin.

4. Keep some Benadryl (diphenhydramine) handy. Diphenhydramine works as an antihistamine to stop an allergic reaction in its tracks. This is also the medicine your doctor may recommend if you suffer from sinus allergies. In oral form (tablets or capsules) it will make you sleepy, so be careful if taking it when you need to be alert.

5. Hydrocortisone cream or ointment is very effective for controlling the itch. We always carry a small tube with us when traveling!

6. If it is your first case of hives and they seem unusually severe or long-lasting, it’s a good idea to visit the nearest medical clinic as soon as possible. Some severe cases of hives will require stronger medicines like the corticosteroid prednisone to bring relief.

7. Hives and itchy rashes that don’t respond to antihistamines or corticosteroids and are hindering your ability to breathe may need to be quickly treated with a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline). This medication quickly opens the breathing passages and could save your life. Those with confirmed severe allergic reactions should always travel with a spare Epi-pen type auto injector because you never know when you might be hiking through a nasty patch of poison ivy!

Happy, Healthy Travels!

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

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Delhi Belly, Montezuma’s Revenge, Turkey Trots – How to NOT pick up Travelers’ Diarrhea! The Travel Pharmacist

For all of the fun and clever names, Travelers’ Diarrhea (TD) is NOT something anyone who travels wishes to experience. Being sick at home is bad enough, but when you’re traveling – it seems so much worse. Over 10 million cases of TD are reported to the CDC annually!

The bad news is that this is the most common ailment of all international travelers. In fact, 20-50% of us will be affected at one time or another. Travelers’ Diarrhea is a bacterial infection that comes on very quickly and usually resolves with a week, but during that time the nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, cramping and stomach upset can make you feel miserable.

Persons at particular high-risk include young adults, persons with compromised immune systems, persons with inflammatory-bowel disease or diabetes, and persons taking H-2 blockers or antacids. We pick up TD from eating or drinking something that has been in contact with contaminated water.

The good news is that with a few precautions, we can greatly lessen our risk for contracting TD.

* Know the “high-risk” areas. If you’re traveling to developing areas in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia be aware that the destination is the greatest indicator of where you’ll most often find TD.

* Prevention works. Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) taken 2 tablets 4 times daily or 2 fluid ounces 4 times daily has been shown to greatly decrease the incidence of TD. Pack a few extra tablets or a small bottle of liquid in your bag – we do!

* Avoid street vendors. This is a tough one for me, because we love eating local foods from street vendors when we travel. But if you want to be 100% sure of not contracting TD, then its best to avoid street food. We usually compromise and will only frequent those who look “safe” though that hasn’t always worked for us, either. 🙂

* Avoid eating raw fruits, like oranges or bananas, unless you’ve peeled them yourself.

* Tap water, ice, unpasteurized milk, and dairy products are associated with increased risk for TD. It’s better to stick with bottled water or beer instead.

If you do end up with a case of Montezuma’s Revenge, the best thing to do is HYDRATE. Clear liquids are routinely recommended for adults. Electrolyte replacement drinks are good for replacing what the body is losing. Thankfully, most cases clear up on their own within a few days, but if you’re still experiencing symptoms, running a fever, or seeing bloody stools, it’s important to see a doctor ASAP.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

Who is The Travel Pharmacist Team?

Herbs For Health

herbs for health

herbs for health

A pinch of salt. A dash of pepper. Just a smidgen of basil to bring out the flavor. We use herbs and spices all the time to make our food taste better, but what if adding an extra herb or two to a meal could boost our health as well? Whether you’re in another country shopping in a foreign market or simply growing your own herbs for health reasons, these are 5 commonly used garden wonders to improve overall well being.

Basil – Can you smell the delicious aroma of fresh basil leaves, still warm from the sun? This aromatic leaf is packed with calcium, magnesium, and vitamins C and K. A few leaves in a capresé salad or ground as pesto over warm noodles work in the body to help lower blood pressure and boost circulation.

Marigolds – Such a pretty flower with so many valuable perks for the body! This colorful orange flower contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants responsible for brightening skin complexion. To use fresh flower petals, pour boiling water over the mixture and let soak overnight. Strain and chill to use as a daily skin toner. You may also see the oils of marigold flowers in many skin creams also known as calendula.

Peppermint Leaves – Crush a few of these stimulating leaves and soak in cold water for a few minutes. Apply to the pulse points and temple for an energizing break. Peppermint eases tension headaches and if inhaled as an oil, it can expand sinuses and relieve that heavy feeling you get when your sinuses are congested.

Chamomile – This versatile herb has been used in natural medicine for centuries to cure everything from digestive issues to anxiety. Chamomile plants are made up of thin feathery branched leaves and erect fuzzy green stems that produce numerous flowering heads. The florets are flat with triangular white petals and conical sunflower yellow centers. The flower heads are used as an infusion to create chamomile tea. The florets can also be used as an herbal element in salads or as a garnish.

Chrysanthemums – Suffering from a headache? Soak a handful of fresh chrysanthemum flowers in hot water for 10 minutes and drink as a relaxing tea. The effect of releasing blood vessel constriction and decreasing muscle tension in the head will often put the headache away in minutes.

Do you have a favorite herb or herbal remedy? Please share what’s worked well for you!

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

Who is The Travel Pharmacist Team?

Sleep Tips to Beat Insomnia


You know the feeling. Tossing and turning all night, punching your pillow, and your mind just won’t let go – it’s insomnia. For many people, insomnia is a chronic condition they face with dread. Getting enough sleep at night is very important to maintain good health and high energy, especially when traveling. Without a good night’s sleep, your body and mind work at less-than-optimal productivity. Jet lag, travel delays, time zone shuffles, and stress/worry are just a few of the many factors that can cause this disorder. Insomnia affects nearly everyone at one time or another, so let’s see what we can do to get you snoozing again!

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the inability to get enough quality sleep to feel rested. This includes being unable to fall asleep or to stay asleep, waking up very early, and/or not feeling refreshed after sleeping. Certain medications and medical conditions, excessive stress, or poor sleeping/bedtime habits all affect sleep quality. While the majority of insomnia cases can be directly traced to stressful or anxiety-producing life events, there are also insomniacs with depression, vitamin and mineral imbalances, and breathing difficulties.

Non-drug treatments

Developing good sleep habits is often one of the best treatments for this condition. Getting yourself back into a habit of going to bed at a regular time and avoiding stimulation (like exercise or caffeine) before bedtime may be enough to break the temporary pattern of sleeplessness. Relaxation techniques, dietary changes to include foods high in the amino acid tryptophan (bananas, turkey, cottage cheese, and milk), and a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise can all help you sleep more soundly.

A leading herb used for sleeplessness is valerian. Valerian root makes getting to sleep easier and increases deep sleep and dreaming. It does not cause a ‘morning hangover’ – a side effect common to some OTC sleep aids. Many people use 300 to 400mg of a concentrated valerian root preparation thirty minutes before bedtime.

Melatonin has also shown some success in getting sleep patterns back on track after experiencing JET LAG, but not for treating general insomnia.

OTC treatments

Sleep aids like Tylenol PM and Nytol contain the antihistamine diphenhydramine and may be effective in the short term. A word of warning about all diphenhydramine products – they can make you very, very sleepy and groggy! While this is great for getting sleep, it isn’t so nice when you find yourself having to navigate in a foreign county. Give yourself plenty of time to sleep and to get over the lingering groggy effects.

Although over-the-counter sleep aids may be useful for occasional treatment of insomnia, especially during traveling, it is not a good idea to use these products on a regular basis. These do not help with the underlying cause of insomnia and may become less effective after a few days of use.

Prescription treatments

For cases of insomnia that last longer than one month, prescription medications from your doctor may be in order. A class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics are commonly prescribed to treat chronic insomnia. Ambien (generic zolpidem) and Lunesta (generic eszopiclone) are two of the medications in this class that you’ll see most often. These work to help you fall asleep faster, though some people still report a groggy feeling the next day. Use care if taking these if you need to be sharp in the morning.

Here’s to getting back on track and sleeping well! Take care!

As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

Who is The Travel Pharmacist Team?


Sun Safety – The Travel Pharmacist

Sun Safety

Summer’s finally here and it’s time to get outside! Family fun at the beach or lake includes lots of time out in the sun – but too much sun can be harmful down the road. In fact, during childhood a single blistering sunburn can double the risk of skin cancer later in life. But we love the sun and being outside! Thankfully, damage from the sun is completely preventable as long as we follow a few SUN SAFETY TIPS.

Both the Skin Cancer Foundation and the Sun Safety Alliance recommend wearing protective clothing and hats as a first line of defense to shield tender skin.

  • Limit outdoor activities during the harshest sun time of 10am -2pm
  • Protect the eyes by using sunglasses with 100% UV protection
  • Beware of surfaces like snow, sand, concrete, and water which can reflect the damaging rays


A sunscreen works by blocking the sun’s UV rays on the body where it’s applied. The sun naturally produces both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays cause skin aging, while UVB rays cause burns. Picking the right  sunscreen is important. Consider factors such as the amount of time in the water, the activity you’ll be doing, and the time of day you plan to be out in the sun.

  • Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB) with an SPF of at least 15
  • Apply to children older than 6 months old
  • Apply 30 minutes BEFORE going out and reapply every 2 hours
  • Reapply after swimming, sweating, or towel drying

Sun Sensitive Medications

Medicines and the sun sometimes don’t mix well. Some drugs can cause a photosensitivity reaction. The occurs when an individual taking a particular drug is exposed to sunlight and the skin reacts with a rash, intense burning, redness and swelling. If you notice any of these symptoms or your burn seems out of proportion to the amount of sun exposure, it may be a result of photosensitivity. Here are just a few medications to be aware of – but always check with your doctor or pharmacist before going out in the sun whenever a new medicine is prescribed.

  • Retin-A (tretinoin)
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine)
  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
  • Zithromax (azithromycin)


Typically, the redness and pain of a sunburn will appear in one to 20 hours after the exposure. However, the skin doesn’t have to turn red to be damaged. A more serious sunburn may present with fever, nausea, prickly sensations, and chills. Small blisters and lizard-like peeling of the skin as the burn begins to heal are also common.

  • Cool baths and cold compresses are soothing for sun-reddened skin
  • Orange juice or Vitamin C supplements help give the body extra immune support while the skin heals
  • Anti-inflammatory pain relievers, like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium work well to ease the pain
  • The aloe plant (or handy jar of aloe gel) is thought to work in two ways. First, the compounds in the gel limit the effects of bradykinin, a pain-producing agent in our bodies. Second, aloe stimulates skin cell growth, immune response, and regeneration of some types of nerve cells.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.

Who is The Travel Pharmacist Team?