I Found A Strange Pill! Now What? – Pill Identifiers

pill identifiers - the travel pharmacist

This is how it usually happens. You’re looking for quarters under the sofa cushions or rummaging to find your dropped sunglasses under the car seat – and you find a stray tablet or capsule. You can’t, for the life of you, remember what it was or where it came from. Is this a vitamin? An aspirin? Or a prescription medication you filled last fall?

Or, you open up your prescription from the pharmacy and the pills look different. Was this a mistake or perhaps the pharmacy has changed companies that make your tablets – there are LOTS of different generic companies out there. How would you know for sure?

Or, you’re putting up the laundry in your daughter’s room and come upon several stray capsules in a bag. She doesn’t get home until later and your curiosity won’t let you rest until you know what they are used for.

All of these scenarios are times when a pill identifier comes in very handy. Pill identifiers can bring peace of mind when you’re not quite sure or give you valuable information in case of an accidental overdose. They use a national database of drugs and their specific identifications – like imprints, colors and  shapes. You simply type in what you see on the tablet or capsule and your result pops right up!

On-line pill identifiers that I use quite often and trust are listed below.

Drugs.com Pill Identification Wizard

WebMD Pill Identification Tool

National Library of Medicine Pill Box

If you can’t find what you need on these web sites, don’t hesitate to give your healthcare provider a call right away. It’s important to be absolutely sure before taking any medications. Your health is the top priority!

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?


Gout and Travel – Avoid Flares That Can Ruin Your Vacation

gout and travel

How can one small toe hurt so badly? As a pharmacist, this is a question I’m often asked by those who suffer from GOUT. When dealing with gout, it feels as though all the pain in the world is concentrated in that one little toe. Living with gout can be a daunting experience – so travelers with gout need to be extra vigilant to ensure their vacation time isn’t compromised by pain. Gout and travel bring a new set of concerns that must be dealt with daily. Here is the information you need to cross the misery of gout off of your travel to-do list!

Few words are more capable of striking fear into a traveler than “GOUT FLARE”. Imagine feeling as though you have ground glass in your joints with every step you take? The pain of gout can bring a grown man to tears and seriously hamper a good vacation. Here are ways to keep gout out of your life as well as treatment options for minimizing the down-time if an attack occurs while you’re traveling.

What is gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis in which a crystallized form of uric acid builds up in the joints if the kidneys become overloaded and cannot filter it from the blood. Uric acid is produced in the body when it breaks down a naturally found substance called purines. Gout can be triggered by certain foods (like seafood, fatty meats, and alcohol), certain medications (diuretics, aspirin), obesity or stress. It occurs most often in the joint of the big toe, but can affect any major joint in the body. The pain level generally increases very quickly and soon the affected joint is swollen, warm to the touch, and tender. Because the pain can be so severe, you may also feel as though you have flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, and body aches. This can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Definitely NOT the way anyone wants to spend precious vacation time.

How is gout treated?

Non-drug methods include paying attention to what triggers your gout to flare. If you know large amounts of alcohol cause pain, alternate a glass of water with every cocktail at the wedding reception. Seafood feasts and heavy steak dinners might have to be limited to ensure a pain-free visit. In fact, a healthy, low-fat diet may be one of the best ways to find welcome relief from gout pain. Drinking lots of water will also help flush the excess uric acid from your system.

Munching a big handful of cherries has shown to be effective in lowering gout attacks. More good news from the Arthritis Foundation™ is that drinking coffee – a lot of coffee! – four or more cups a day – can significantly decrease your risk of gout!

Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are very helpful in bringing down inflammation and easing joint pain. Avoid taking aspirin for pain relief during a flare as this may raise uric acid levels and make it worse.

Prescription treatment for gout works two ways: acute (immediate) treatment and prevention (prophylaxis).  First, your doctor may prescribe medication to stop the pain immediately. This might be a short-term steroid dose-pack like methylprednisolone or prednisone that works by quickly bringing down the painful inflammation. Steroid shots directly into the affected joint may be required to ease the pain. Once the acute phase has passed, your doctor may prescribe allopurinol to help prevent further gout attacks from occurring. This medication works by decreasing the amount of uric acid the body makes.

So my best advice for full vacation enjoyment is to avoid (or enjoy in moderation) the things that might trigger a gout attack and if you’re prone to flares, be sure you have medicine on hand to treat the symptoms. Those vacation days are more valuable than gold! Take care.

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?


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.

Who is The Travel Pharmacist Team?

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?