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Travel

Traveling soon? Here’s some travel advice.

First of all be prepared before you travel:

  • Educate yourself about your destination; what will the weather be like? How are the sanitary conditions? Are there any safety or security issues? Will you need an electrical plug adapter?
  • Visit your doctor before you leave if you have any health concerns or chronic medical conditions. Make this visit at least 5 to 6 weeks ahead of time as you might need immunizations.
  • Make sure you have an adequate supply of your medications and pack them in a carry on rather than in luggage.
  • Bring along a list of all your current medications, allergies, and blood type.

Important issues while traveling include:

  • Prevent blood clots associated with prolonged sitting, by exercising your calf muscles while seated and/or get up and walk around every couple of hours.
  • Minimize jet lag by staying well hydrated, avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Get plenty of rest prior to departing and, upon arrival to your destination, adjust to the local schedule as fast as possible and expose yourself to bright lights at the same time of day as before departure.
  • Prevent traveler’s diarrhea by washing hands frequently, avoiding precooked food like buffets, street vendor food and any water that is not bottled from a reputable source. Your doctor may want to prescribe antibiotics to take with you in case you come down with diarrhea.
  • Motion sickness can be lessened by focusing on the horizon and not reading. Sit in the back of the vehicle and don’t ride facing the rear.
  • Avoid sunburn by bringing enough of an appropriate sunscreen and limiting time in sun, especially the first few days.

Do not travel if:

  • You have recently had heart attack or stroke.
  • You have had recent surgery.
  • You have significant respiratory disease such as asthma or emphysema.
  • You have had recent injury to any vital organs.
  • You are ill with a bad cough, vomiting, diarrhea or a fever of 100 degrees or above.

Take along a travel health kit to include those things you commonly use at home for symptoms of illness or injury.

Do your best to deal with often encountered misfortunes such as missed flights, lost luggage, bad weather, disappointing accommodations, etc. You have no control over most of these things and allowing yourself to get stressed out can only make you feel more miserable. Look beyond these situations and imagine the joy that you will experience during your trip. Bon Voyage!

 

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With the arrival of summer, many of us will be traveling by airplane. Those of us who are older than 50 can remember going in and out of airports free of any type of security measures. Now, to board a plane, we have to nearly disrobe, get patted down and, most recently, pass through full-body scanners that take an image of our body.

About 500 full-body scanners are in use at airports throughout America, falling into one of two types: Half are millimeter-wave scanners, and half are backscatter x-ray scanners.

Millimeter-wave scanners use radio waves to create an image of the body and produce no ionizing radiation. Backscatter x-ray scanners use ionizing radiation, which is the type of radiation that can cause tissue damage and cancer.

So, are full-body scanners safe? Depends who you listen to.

There is not much concern about side effects from the millimeter-wave scanners. Regarding backscatter x-ray scanners, a study done by radiation experts at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine concludes that they are safe. The study states it would take more than 50 full-body scans by the backscatter x-ray scanner to equal the radiation exposure of one dental x-ray; 1,000 scans to equal a chest x-ray; and 200,000 scans to equal a CAT scan.

The study also provides many statistics to show that the use of x-ray scanners would produce only a trivial increase in cancer, such as six more cases of cancer among 100 million people scanned.

Other investigators have calculated a higher, although still extremely low, risk of cancer from the x-ray scanner. There are many who would argue that this is a small risk and may be acceptable, given the possibility of stopping a terrorist.

I assume the statistics I quoted from the study are probably correct, but I have several questions:

**Are the machines working properly to give the correct amount of radiation?

**Is any risk of increased cancer, albeit extremely small, worth the risk?

**If we have the non-ionizing millimeter-wave scanner that appears to be safe, then why would the backscatter x-ray scanner be used at all?

Each of us needs to decide what to do when we go through airport security. As for myself, I wouldn’t think twice about going through the millimeter-wave scanner. But, although I think that the risk of harm from the backscatter x-ray scanner is probably very small, if I have the luxury of time before boarding my plane, I’ll choose to get a pat-down as opposed to the x-ray scan.

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