Sleep Tips to Beat Insomnia

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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

Sunscreens

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)

Sunburn

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?

Travel Immunization Basics – The Travel Pharmacist

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Travel immunizations can make or break your time spent in a foreign country. Ensuring that your body is capable of fighting off diseases you may encounter on your travels is the most important thing you can do to ensure a safe and healthy trip. Depending on where you plan to travel and what type of traveling you plan to to – you might require various vaccinations or medications to protect you from a variety of illnesses.  Whether you are heading to the tropical regions and might encounter malaria carrying mosquitoes, or if you are heading to an area where Yellow Fever is prominent, it is wise to take precautions.

The most common vaccinations when traveling abroad include:

  • Yellow Fever
  • Hepatitis
  • Tetanus
  • Malaria – typically a prophylactic pill can be taken

Many countries have vaccination requirements in order to enter the area. Be sure to check your destination for both required and suggested vaccinations. Certain times of the year have more prevalent cases of illness, as do more remote regions.

PLAN AHEAD!  A few vaccination treatments require a series of vaccinations (like the Hepatitis series).  Not only might it take several weeks/months to get a complete series of shots, many times the effectiveness of the vaccination are not immediate. Also, you don’t want to be battling any possible post-vaccination side effects while you’re traveling.  Start planning your vaccinations as soon as possible once you’ve made travel plans.

Not all insurance companies will cover your vaccinations because they are not the typical preventative medicine. Check with your carrier to see what they might cover. Some insurance will allow the shots, but they require you to pay up front and submit forms for reimbursement. Be sure to check with your doctor before making an appointment as well. It might be better to go to a travel clinic who will have all the most updated information on country requirements, actually have vaccination products in stock, and can provide you with the appropriate documentation to bring with you to verify your immunizations. Many local pharmacies are starting to integrate Travel Medicine into their stores, so this might be a good place to start.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has valuable resources for more information on vaccinations. They also provide specific destination information. Start with a list of the places you’ll be visiting and see what’s required.

Vaccinations:  http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/vaccinations.aspx

Destination info:  http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.aspx

Don’t forget to bring along proof of your vaccinations with your travel papers as some countries will not allow you to enter without the required documentation.

Happy, Healthy Travels!

Top 5 Vacation Illnesses and How to Avoid Them

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Do you know the Top 5 Ailments that vacationers and travelers dread most when away from home? And even more importantly, do you know how to treat vacation illnesses when they occur? With this handy list, now you will!

*Sunburn
*Insect Bites
*Headaches/Body Aches
*Upset Stomach/ GI issues
*Urinary Tract Infections

When traveling, you leave the familiar surroundings of home and go out to explore new and exciting venues. Unfortunately, these changes in environment can result in problems such as increased sun exposure, unfamiliar insects/allergic reactions, and drastic changes in climate that weaken our defenses. Vacationers are more prone to suffer from “vacation-itis” when their systems are hit hard by exotic or rich foods, irregular meal times, increased alcohol consumption and increased sexual activity.

Here are a few tips for taking care of these vacation illnesses before they ruin your good time away from home.

Sunburn – There is nothing more annoying than ruining your vacation by getting badly sunburned on the first day. It’s important to bring along familiar sun protection if visiting someplace where you’ll be spending lots of time in the sun. Use UVB and UVA sun protection for the lips, face and body when outside and don’t forget a hat or cool, long sleeves as extra protection. If you do get too much sun, packing a bottle of aloe vera gel with lidocaine will help reduce the pain. Put the bottle in the refrigerator or under cool water for especially quick relief.

Insect Bites – If you have a known serious allergy to insect bites, please don’t forget an extra prescription Epi-Pen just in case of emergencies. For minor insect bites or stings, bringing along an OTC antihistamine like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) will help reduce swelling and inflammation, but beware – it will make you VERY sleepy. Hydrocortisone cream is readily available in most vacation spots and can bring fast relief for itching from bites or rashes.

Headaches/Body Aches – Whether your body is hurting from an overindulgence of alcohol or overdoing it on the slopes, bringing along a pain reliever when traveling is a good idea. One of my favorites for headaches is the fast acting BC Powder which contains a pain-punching combination of aspirin and caffeine. For muscle and body aches, an anti-inflammatory product like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium will work to stop swelling commonly associated with tendon, muscle, and joint pain.

Upset Stomach/GI Issues – Nothing ruins a trip faster than an attack of traveler’s diarrhea or other intestinal upset. Foreign foods and water can wreck havoc on the body’s digestive system, so it’s always good to be prepared. One of the standards in our Travel Medicine Kit is the fast-acting anti-diarrhea medicine Imodium (loperamide). If GI issues are common when you vacation, consider the use of a probiotic like Florastor to help prevent and shorten the duration of travel-related stomach upset. It’s recommended that you take it twice a day, starting four days before, during and for four days after the trip.

Urinary Tract Infections – For women who are prone to UTIs, it’s a good idea to carry a product called Cystex. I recommend it highly because it not only dulls the pain of the UTI with an analgesic, but also has an antibacterial agent to slow the progression of the infection until you can see the doctor. It’s also considered an excellent preventative medication should you engage in certain behaviors (i.e. not staying hydrated, increased sexual activity, etc.) that make some women more prone to UTIs.

BONUS TRAVEL TIP! Avoiding Embarrassing “Jet Bloat”

If you’re flying to your vacation destination, be sure to be prepared for the “jet bloat” that always occurs at the most inopportune time. This happens when the body is forced to deal with increased gas volume due to elevation gains (the higher the altitude you fly, the more the gas in the body expands). Activated charcoal capsules, like CharcoCaps, do double duty to help absorb some of the gas volume as well as the odor.

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

Happy, Healthy Travels!

Medical Tourism

 

Medical Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing segments of the Travel Industry. Whether it’s for cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments or excellent dental care at a fraction of the cost found at home – taking a trip abroad to obtain medical services is becoming more and more popular.

As with any medical decision, it’s important to know the facts before you go. What procedures are available? Which destinations are easiest to navigate in terms of language and culture? How can I combine a luxury vacation with these medical services? We’re here to answer these questions and hopefully point you in the right direction when your health and travel needs come together.

Start here to learn more about Medical Tourism and what it might mean to you!