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Entries about health and medicine

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Subtle Warning

This particular blog entry has been written because a certain TP Overlord, who shall remain nameless (Peter), felt "digesting" the information taken from a forum thread could be useful. Actually, he's right - it will be useful. But, do yourselves a favor and don't read it over breakfast, lunch or dinner. You've been warned.

Dodgy toilets on the MV Sophie, by Shlugger

Dodgy toilets on the MV Sophie, by Shlugger

In The Beginning...

A few months ago, one of our members posted a thread in the General Talk Forum entitled Avoiding the trots. (diarrhoea). It received enough attention that it was even featured. Though not normally subject matter that catches everyone's attention, it is an "affliction" almost everyone experiences at some point during their travels. A bout of diarrhea is annoying at the least, but a severe case can put a real damper on one's travel plans and ultimately affect one's health. So, giggle now while I glean the important stuff from the original thread... (Too late, I've already gleaned.)

A Short List Of The Culprits

  • Water
  • Contaminated Food
  • Dietary Changes
  • Schedule Changes
  • Personal Cleanliness
  • Paper Currency
  • Soap

Don't drink the water! Not too many people are unaware of this concept but it bears repeating. This includes ice cubes in your drinks. This also includes ordering something like a Scotch and water. But, another plausible cause was brought to light in the forum thread - beware of showers. The water used for bathing may not be the same water that runs through the taps for drinking. Ingesting even a small amount of contaminated shower water could have consequences.

All food bad! Okay - that's an exaggeration. Be mindful of uncooked vegetables (green salads) as the "greens" may have been lightly rinsed in water. Seafood and shellfish are well known for being contaminated, especially raw oysters, ceviche, sushi, etc. Also be mindful of your changes in diet. That Guinea pig kabob may smell delectable but may wreak havoc with your digestive system. Make changes to your diet slowly.

Watch the clock! Depending on your eating habits at home, traveling throws in a monkey wrench. Try to maintain your regular eating schedule (based on your "home" clock rather than your current time zone). Avoid skipping meals and/or just having snacks to tide you over. Your body doesn't like abrupt changes even if you do.

Sing! Okay, people will think you're nuts if you do it out loud. But, wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 15-30 seconds - the length of Happy Birthday sung twice. Be sure to wash between each finger and get under those nail beds. Remember, anything you touch after washing said hands is another source of contamination. Avoid using cloth hand towels that other's have also used. Hand sanitizers work but nothing beats soap and water when available.

Show me the money! Again, another tidbit from the forum thread. Paper currency does indeed harbor bacteria more so than metallic coins. The weave of the paper gives bacteria a place to hide and stay cozy warm in your pocket.

Squeaky clean! Soap is a very useful item. It not only cleans things but it also cleans things out, including your digestive system. Those wonderful little liquids used in home and industrial dishwashers to keep spots from forming on glassware are a type of soap. Dishes and glassware that are not adequately rinsed can be coated with soap residue. This is quite common in small eateries where dishes are still washed by hand. This soap residue will come in contact with food or drink and ultimately be ingested by you, the consumer. (To this day, soap and water are the key ingredients for enemas - get the point?)

Not so squeaky clean! All the soap in the world will not rid a plate of bacteria if adequate amounts of water at a high enough temperature are not used. Enough said.

Close The Floodgates!!

I have mentioned basic "avoidance" procedures within each category listed above though sometimes, they aren't quite as effective as we'd like them to be. So, here are some additional tips for stemming the tide - so to speak. (Oh come on, admit it. That made you giggle.)

  • Pro-biotics - pro-biotics are comprised of a family of (friendly) bacteria that occurs naturally in our intestinal tract. The most commonly known is Acidophilus, which is used in the culturing of yogurt. It is also available in capsule and tablet form through most health food stores and pharmacies.
  • Imodium - an over the counter (OTC) anti-diarrheal medication that should be used with caution. Yes, it is an OTC and will slow or stem the tide but it should not be used on a regular basis. There is a reason your body is trying to rid itself of the causative factor. The same holds true of Pepto-Bismal and any other OTC anti-diarrheal treatment.
  • Fiber - products, such as Metamucil (and generic forms) are known for their effectiveness against constipation. They are also very useful tools against diarrhea. The fiber absorbs the excess fluid in the digestive tract and slows down the motility. Such products are available in powder and capsule form. Food stuffs, such as rice, pasta, crackers, biscuits, bland cheeses, and white breads are also quite useful.
  • Antibiotics - these should only be used under the direction of a physician. There are certain times when antibiotics are the only route of treatment (giardia, etc.) but they should not be used as a preventative. Over use of antibiotics may lead to resistance and complicate a treatment for some other ailment/condition.

Mecardo spices and grains, by jessnsteve

Mecardo spices and grains, by jessnsteve

Bottom Line

In a nut shell...

  • Always remember, what goes into your body must come out of your body. (Okay, stop smirking - it wasn't a sex joke. I'll save those for another blog.) Be mindful of the food you eat and how it has been handled.
  • You always wondered why your mother told you to wash your hands all the time - now you know.
  • Pay attention to your eating schedule and alcohol intake. Avoid the "mysterious drink of the house" or pay the price.
  • Pack a few pro-biotic capsules, a few fiber supplements and a few Imodium tablets but use the pro-biotics and/or fiber first.
  • Don't drink the water.
  • Don't forget to check out the original thread in General Talk too. If you have additional recommendations or comments, by all means, please add them.

If you have other tips and tricks for your fellow travellers, then join us in educating travellers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team.

Posted by Isadora 13:45 Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (3)


My Dick Fall Off and I Wake Up Dead.

First off, I need to thank Robert Townsend for that great "lead-in" line - taken from the movie The Mighty Quinn (1989). It's a great movie. So what if neither he, nor Denzel Washington, can hold a Caribbean accent for more than a line or two. It's still entertaining. Watch it.

Australia - Hippie Campervan, by stacestu

Australia - Hippie Campervan, by stacestu


Hop into my Way Back Machine then give that dial a spin! Oh look! It's 1968 and I am all of 15 years of age. The "Summer of Love" came and went twelve months prior, but it has left its proverbial footprint in the sexual sands of time. Life is good. Taboos are thrown on raging bonfires, alongside bras and draft cards, while everyone watches the smoke mingle with the clouds. Pot is cheap. Sex is free. Both are everywhere--along with a few other goodies. "Share the Love" takes on a whole new meaning for a whole new generation. Oh, and don't bogart that joint, my friend. Hand it over to me...

Little did most of us enjoying the fruits of the sexual revolution realize what "seeds" were actually being sown. Sure, pregnancy was one of those "seeds" but with the upstart of free clinics handing out free birth control pills... a minor consideration. Syphilis and gonorrhea (the BIG STDs of the day) were easily cured with a few penicillin injections. Sex had become a true contact sport with many players and didn't require protective gear anymore. Life just kept getting better.

My Dick Fall Off and I Wake Up Dead.

Where to next? Oh, just give that dial another spin! Ah--1981 and I am all of 28 yeas of age. I have just gotten divorced, so I know it's going to be a good year! Wait. Something isn't quite right... I am also engaged in a battle with Secret STD Agent - Chlamydia Trachomatis. My Consultants are telling me Chlamydia launched Project PID at some point in an attempt to destroy any chance of my reproducing offspring. (What a cruel plan!) They also explain to me that, being a good little Secret Agent, Chlamydia allowed no symptoms to be detected until now. Whoa!

It had taken up residence in my reproductive organs while evading detection for several years. It was also hell-bent on a campaign of mass destruction. I was diagnosed, misdiagnosed, told I was crazy, put on an anti-depressant which "supposedly" helped with "phantom" pelvic pain, etc, etc. There was nothing phantom about it and I had surgical reports to prove the original diagnosis: pelvic inflammatory disease... Chlamydia (source of origin). Because I didn't present with the classic symptoms, it was all in my head. (Thank God I didn't have a dick. It may have had to have fallen off in front of someone to prove something was really amiss.)

For the next eight years, I waged innumerous wars against PID. At the time, no doctor would perform a hysterectomy because of my age and the contradicting diagnoses. Thankfully, I worked in a profession where my colleagues (MDs) would treat me with Demerol™ for the pain so I could keep doing my job. I would eventually spend one week a month in hospital on IV antibiotics when Agent C. attacked again. In 1989, I underwent a radical hysterectomy at age 37. The surgical report states I would have been admitted for emergency surgery within a few weeks because other organs had come under attack also. (Hey, at least I didn't wake up dead.)

Amsterdam - Condoms, by LizaBrooks

Amsterdam - Condoms, by LizaBrooks


Yes, I realize I have probably given you way too much information about my personal life. As payback, you can share with me one of these days. But these blog entries are designed to make travelers better and safer travelers. We do that by sharing experiences. So, as with most things, being forewarned is forearmed even when it comes to sex. Here are some tips (no pun intended - really):

  • Abstinence - Refraining from sexual activity.

True abstinence pretty much guarantees you will not encounter any of the pesky STDs. By true abstinence, I mean NO sexual contact, which includes oral and/or digital stimulation. Several of the STDs, such as Herpes simplex, HIV and Hepatitis B can be transmitted through oral sex. Sorry, but if you are engaging in any type of direct genital contact with a partner, you are engaging in a sexual activity. Sex does not mean intercourse only.

  • Condoms (prophylactics) - A device, especially a condom, for preventing venereal infection and conception.

The (latex/polyurethane) condom is your friend when it comes to sexual activity. It will not protect you against genital herpes or genital warts, as these infections also manifest themselves in areas not covered by the condom. But they are great for protection against many other STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Please use them. They are cheap. They also come in many colors, flavors and styles. (The price of a condom is nothing compared to the medical bills associated with an STD. I speak from an expensive experience.) The use of "natural" condoms is not advised. Natural condoms are constructed of animal tissue which will stop sperm but allow bacteria and viruses to pass through the membrane.

  • Vaccines - A preparation of a weakened or killed pathogen, such as a bacterium or virus, that upon administration stimulates antibody production or cellular immunity against the pathogen but is incapable of causing severe infection.

Presently, there are two vaccines available for the protection against 4 of the 15+ Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs) which are associated with cervical and other genital cancers. Gardasil™ and Cervarix™ are available in over 80 countries, but it must be noted that both of these vaccines and their side effects are under investigation at this time.

  • Common Sense - Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.

Common sense is your ultimate best friend. (Condoms rank second.) Alcohol, recreational substances and/or just that "hot guy/girl in the corner of the room" can cloud one's judgment. I understand that completely. But use your brain before using anything else. Regardless of your gender, carry condoms if you are sexually active. Never rely on the "other person" to do the thinking (like bring condoms themselves) for you. Find a reason to use the bathroom to wash before and after the encounter. (That tip alone is worth its weight in gold, as "cleaning up" washes away bacteria and viruses.)

Okay, I could continue but I'm sure you've gotten the point. Think and be safe.

Do you have some tips and tricks for your fellow travelers? Then join us in educating travelers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team. Each entry published on Travel Unravelled will earn a $5 donation to the Travellerspoint Foundation.

Posted by Isadora 12:09 Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

You Want To Stick That Where?????

Health: You're A Human Pincushion & Other Items Of Import

I've been sitting at this keyboard for a while now, wondering just how to start this blog entry. I've actually edited it 5 or 6 times, because it's not easy to write about something as important as one's health. I'm not here to tell you exactly what to do for your specific destinations, but rather to offer up guidelines to help you help yourself as you explore your chosen corners of the world. So, with that, here goes...

Drug Store Products, by jl98584

Drug Store Products, by jl98584

The First And Only Lesson To Learn

Okay, that's an exaggeration as there will be mondo (like big and huge and gigantic) lessons you will learn as you plan your travels--many of them useful, to boot. But, reading through the forums daily, I am constantly reminded of the number of soon-to-be travelers who struggle with the decision between protecting their own health and purchasing that new sleeping bag or pair of hiking boots. No, you may not need all the vaccinations and/or medications recommended for your specific destination(s), but there's a lesson to be learned here: You are NOT immortal, either. (If someone reading this is truly immortal, please contact me because I would love to meet you in person.) As if that weren't blunt enough--your health is the most precious thing you own--protect it. (Here endeth my lecture on lessons.)

The Human Pincushion Effect

Yup - we're going to discuss vaccinations. Regardless of your travel plans--whether they revolve around visiting the most metropolitan areas of Europe or the farthest reaches of Africa or South America--some inoculations are not a bad thing. No matter where your travels take you, Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B should be at the top of your vaccination list. Whereas Rabies, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever, Cholera, etc. will all depend on your travel choices and the requirements of those countries. (If you choose to read to the end of this blog, you will find links to important sites and articles regarding vaccinations. Hey, it's a good reason to keep reading...)

In some countries these vaccinations can be obtained for free or a small fee, depending on the health-care system. (I'm sorry I can't provide more info on this as I live in the US and nothing is free when it comes to health care. But, I digress.)

Other Items Of Import

I'm going to start this one by addressing Malaria, because it's always a "big ticket" item in the forums. The areas of most concern are Asia, Africa and Central/South America. This one always comes down to your destinations, your own comfort level, your ability to remember to use the insect repellant regularly (no disrespect intended but I never remember to use it), and what advice you accept from other travelers.

The most effective way to guard against malaria is to have a good idea of the areas you plan to visit in relation to the country itself. Basically, ask yourself "will I be east of this area or west of that, etc.", so you can look at the maps (connected with the links below) to see if you will be at risk. As always, if unsure, check the Travel Guide and/or post in the appropriate forum for that region.

Rabies is the second "big ticket" item. (I love this one because I've had my share of (pre-exposure) rabies inoculations! They aren't as bad as they used to be--really.) This is one of the gray areas for most travelers. Do you need them? Probably not, if you are the average backpacker/traveler. (Don't mean to classify things, but stick with me for a few minutes.) Though rabies is a threat around the world, those most at risk either: 1) work in the veterinary field, 2) work on farms, 3) travel mainly in rural areas, 4) can't stop petting stray dogs, skunks, monkeys, and/or other wild animals. Again, rabies vaccinations fall under the "comfort level" heading and your itinerary. When it comes to this disease, only you can decide if your travel plans put you at risk.

There are many other issues that could be addressed in this particular blog. But, since there will be a "table of contents" for you to peruse at your leisure, I will end here and add more information as time goes. Until then, if you have questions/doubts, please check some of the following links:

TP Travel Guide - Travel Health
CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention - US)
WHO (World Health Organization)
Mayo Clinic
NHS (National Health Service - UK)
Global Health (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare)

Until next time... happy travels!!!!!!!!

Do you have some tips and tricks for your fellow travelers? Then join us in educating travelers worldwide. To get started, send our editors an email at unravelled [at] travellerspoint [dot] com. Let them know a bit about yourself, and maybe include some writing samples and ideas for entries. They will review your submission and, if you fit the bill, they will welcome you to the team. Each entry published on Travel Unravelled will earn a $5 donation to the Travellerspoint Foundation.

Posted by Isadora 13:28 Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (2)

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