Archive for the Category »health «

Apr
22nd
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Clearing the Air About Non-Smoking Hotel Rooms – They’re Not as Clean as You Think
Marriott Shadow Ridge Villas from Timesharejuice.com

Marriott Shadow Ridge Villas from Timesharejuice.com

Last week while I was in Rancho Mirage CA, my kids and I visited some friends staying  at Palm Desert’s Marriott Shadow Ridge villas.

I discovered this is a completely smoke-free hotel. I had heard of lodging with nicotine no-nos, but had never run across one. This reminded me of a study published recently, that is important if you have smoke allergies, or are just concerned about your health.

cigarette

The study looked at a random sample of hotels :  some with non smoking rooms, and hotels with complete non smoking bans. Surfaces and air from both types of hotel were analyzed for tobacco smoke pollutants. Not surprisingly, levels were highest in the smoking rooms… BUT what’s significant is levels in non-smoking rooms were much higher than those found at smoke-free hotels.

And…volunteers who stayed overnight in the smoking hotels ended up with sticky nicotine residues on their fingers, even if they stayed in non- smoking rooms. However, urine tests found additional evidence of nicotine exposure in those who stayed in smoking rooms, but not those who stayed in the non-smoking rooms.

It seems third hand smoke  – smoke that seeped under doors, for example – can still linger in drapes, carpet, etc. in non-smoking rooms. We don’t know how dangerous that is, but it is reason to be cautious as we do know that second hand smoke is carcinogenic.

The conclusion is that it’s best for your health to stay in non-smoking hotels whenever possible. Partial smoking bans in hotels do not protect non-smoking guests from exposure to tobacco smoke and tobacco-specific carcinogens

Thankfully, it’s not so hard to find a smoke-free hotel – even in Vegas! –  because the trend is growing. The most comprehensive list I’ve found is here: http://hotelmagician.com/smoke-free_hotels/

And remember, if a smoke-free hotel is not available, and you are booking a hotel online – call the hotel and request a smoke free room if the website doesn’t give you the option. There’s nothing worse than having to spend then night in room with even a hint of cigarette smoke if you are a non-smoker.

As a non-smoker and a mom who travels with kids, I’d like to applaud Marriott and Westin, two chains who offer a number of non smoking hotels across the country. Today on Earth Day, they are good models of those in the industry taking care of our air!

 

 
Jan
31st
  How to Stay Healthy on a Cruise

princess cruise

Gastrointestinal craziness this week, as two large cruise ships returned to port early because of a large number of sick passengers. First, the Royal Caribbean returned to its port two days early because 600 passengers fell ill, and just yesterday Princess Cruises returned early to a Houston port with almost 200 passengers ill. The suspected culprit: the very contagious norovirus.

Ugh. What a way to upstage a vacation. But with more travelers taking cruises, and the cruise ships’ environment of close contact with many people, more travelers  are at risk for gastrointestinal illnesses. The norovirus is the most common gastrointestinal infection, and it can be serious for the elderly or younger children. It is passed on through another infected person, contaminated food, or touching contaminated surfaces.

So what can you do?

1) Be vigilant about cleanliness. It may be obvious to wash your hands before you eat, after you use the toilet, after changing diapers, etc.  But, you  should also wash your hands before brushing teeth, after you blow your nose, and after coming in contact with anyone infected.

2) HOW you wash your hands matters. Washing with soap and water is the BEST way to reduce microbes. Wash for 20 seconds… dry your hands… and make sure you use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and use door knob afterward.

**Many cruise ships have set up hand sanitizer dispensers around the ship for prevention – but do not slip into a false state of feeling protected. Hand sanitizer has to be at least 60% alcohol based to be effective (difficult to verify if the cruise ship is using that) AND is still doesn’t eliminate all germs like soap and water. It can reduce the number of microbes, so sanitizer doesn’ t hurt, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for washing with soap.

If you do choose to supplement with hand sanitizer, make sure you are using it properly for it to work – people often don’t use enough volume, or may wipe it off before it is completely dried. Be patient and let it dry.

3) Immediately wash any soiled clothes that could be contaminated, and if you have to handle them, wash your hands afterward.

4) If at all possible, avoid touching railings on the stairs, elevator buttons, door knobs. Wash hands immediately after if you do. Use your knuckles to press elevator buttons and have tissue handy for doorknobs.

The CDC is investigating both cruise outbreaks, and has a vessel sanitation program that evaluates the effectiveness of prevention and control strategies on board. Get this: the manual for cleaning these large cruise ships is 267 pages long! The sanitation crew has to disinfect every inch – including bedside Bibles.

Passengers who are affected, can request a copy of the CDC final report at FOIARequests@cdc.gov

All this being said – the number of cruise ship outbreaks is actually on a decline, even as more passengers choose to cruise.

 
Sep
10th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Keeping the Family Healthy – Don’t Let A High Trip Get You Down!

IMG_4424

I was caught by surprise on a recent trip to Santa Fe New Mexico. Despite the relaxation, great hikes, and fresh air, I wasn’t sleeping well, and felt a little nauseous at bedtime, along with a slight headache. I was “off.”

Too bad I realized too late that Santa Fe is 7,000 feet above sea level! Who knew?

Altitude sickness had set in. About 20% of use get some symptoms of altitude sickness between 6300 and 9,700 feet above sea level. My doctor told me that people with low blood pressure are even more susceptible… (I’m no MD, but after thinking about it, it makes sense – need to get oxygen flowing stronger!)

Aspen, CO

Aspen, CO

Since it will soon be time to book ski trips over the holidays, I want to remind everyone how altitude sickness can creep up on you, and cast a little haze on your trip if you are not careful… especially if you ski in the higher elevations.

Symptoms of altitude sickness are similar to a severe hangover: insomnia, nausea or vomiting, or light headedness. To prevent it head on, make sure you stay hydrated – more water vapor from the lungs is lost at higher altitudes. Try and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Give yourself time to acclimate before exerting yourself on a hike or something….

If you start exhibiting more serious signs of altitude sickness like excessive vomiting, fever, loss of consciousness,  make sure to seek medical attention. This is especially true if you are climbing higher than 10,000 feet – they say you shouldn’t climb higher  than 300 feet a day at that level.

If you have a pre-existing heart condition you should see your doctor prior to the trip.

There IS medication to prevent altitude sickness. I know that I am susceptible because 3 out of 5 trips to Aspen I have gotten altitude sickness (listen up skiers).

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

So when I was invited to go to Peru for work, a place on my bucket list, I didn’t want my trip to be compromised because I didn’t feel 100%. My doctor prescribed Diamox. I took it a few days before my trip so my body could get used to it, and I felt great even at 11,000 feet.

salt mones Peru

I went with a tour group, Adventures by Disney, and I must say that many people on my trip who did not take Diamox, got sick – including my own family. I was very happy to be on it and wasn’t affected by altitude at all. Some countries, like Peru, offer coca leaves to help… I can’t say that it helped anyone on my trip.

My recommendation would be to check with your doctor – especially when it comes to medicating your children with anything. I found that the kids adjusted better than adults – maybe a stomach ache for a few hours, and then they were fine.

IMG_5018

Don’t let a high trip get you down – be prepared :)

 
Jan
22nd
  Travel Tip Tuesday: How Not to Get Sick on a Plane

With that nasty flu going around the country, I’ve noticed a lot more concern about flying on planes these days – even heard of someone seeing a potential seatmate sneezing, asked if she was sick, and then changed seats. Also – a family friend was unable to take a flight with their sick child – Southwest made them reschedule!

So – how can we all stay healthy? And are we really more susceptible to illness when flying?

Get this:  According to the New York Times, a few years ago a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona swabbed airplane bathrooms and tray tables on eight flights to see what germs may be waiting for you on your flight.

Four out of six tray tables tested positive for the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), …..and norovirus, the highly contagious viruses that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and cramping, was found on one tray. Most of the bathrooms he swabbed had E. coli bacteria. Thirty percent of sinks, flush handles and faucet handles had E. coli, as did 20 percent of toilet seats.

Yuck! This confirms what we all believe: There are germs on planes. The CDC says on its website that the close quarters of flying may facilitate the transmission of influenza.

SO what are we to do? There are a number of new products just preying on our fears, and making money to boot.

Magellans has a whole section on its website devoted to health and hygiene….http://www.magellans.com/health-and-hygiene/health-and-hygiene-air-purifiers-and-breathing-masks. Lots of breathing masks we remember from the SARS days, as well as an air purifier.

There are also mini-fresh air supply devices to wear around your neck. www.weinproducts.com/minimate.htm

I also wrote about a tray table cover in another post.  http://www.tracygallagher.com/2012/09/germ-phobes-traveling-just-got-more-sanitary/

Since germs reportedly can survive up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces, it seems disinfecting your arm chairs, seats, tray tables is not a bad idea. Doctors say the best prevention is to diligently wash your hands, making sure they are clean before you touch your face or nose, and before you eat. If someone is sick next to you and sneezes, well, there’s not much protection for that, but a mask can help.

Packing list: Hand sanitizer? CHECK!

Wishing you healthy travels. Another 8 weeks of flu season to go.

 

 

 

 
Sep
10th
  Germ-phobes: Traveling Just Got More Sanitary

I just got back from a business trip last week on a cruise ship… to the cruise line’s credit, there was hand sanitizer everywhere, and cruise staff waiting outside each restaurant with hand wipes. We all heard of the illnesses that have taken place on cruise ships a while back – keeping hands clean is a good way to ward off the spread of germs in such tight quarters.

So the topic was fresh in my mind….. But one of my producers took the cleanliness while cruising one step further: She told me that she has airplane sheets, and tray table covers to use on her flights. With cold and flu season around the corner, I researched.

Zing Things is one company that makes TrayGuard Reusable Antimicrobial Airplane Tray Covers. Think about it – you have a little four year old with a runny nose sitting in your seat the flight before yours…. how well does the airline staff REALLY sanitize those trays, when they are worried about on-time performance?

They sell for about $15 for a two -pack on Amazon, and claim to be reusable.   TrayGuard Reusable Antimicrobial Airplane Tray Cover 2-Pack

From Etsy Nice Seats

Also – with airlines packing more people in, and planes aging, those seats are exposed to more dirt, dust, and yes – germs. Enter stage right: Planesheets. They are washable slip-covers if you will, with sizes to fit both coach and upper class seats. They come in various patterns and colors, and are washable. www.planesheets.com. The one above I found on etsy.com

(I am sure other companies make these products – these are just two I found that look good)

My producer has both – but we were all laughing because she has yet to use them – Would you feel embarrassed breaking them out on a flight?

Happy Monday -make it a great week.

 

 

 
Aug
07th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Extinguish Those Smoke-Friendly Hotel Rooms

Have I developed smoker’s voice? In the past month I have been given two cigarette-friendly hotel rooms. I sincerely forgot they still even exist. Didn’t hotels kick the habit?

Girls Weekend in Vegas

Apparently not…. and definitely not in Vegas…. where there ARE a lot of smoking rooms.  I recently booked a hotel room in Vegas online.

The other time I got a smoke friendly room was in a very clean, outdoorsy city so I was surprised.

Beware: Many hotel chains that claim to be “smoke free” still offer smoking rooms to travelers abroad, where smoking is more commonly accepted.

If you are booking online and the website doesn’t ask if you want a smoking or non-smoking room, make sure to follow up with a phone call. Especially in a place like Vegas!

Secondly, if you do receive a smoking room and the hotel offers to change your room, or to bring in a machine that cleanses the air, choose the room change. Even if you think it is a hassle to re-pack, we tried the machine and it is only about 40% effective, so if you are highly sensitive to cigarette smoke residue, grab that new room while it is available.

If you can. ask for a non-smoking floor – sometimes the smoke seeps through the rooms. You especially don’t want your children exposed to the carcinogenic second hand smoke.

Happy Travels!

 
Feb
29th
  The Psychological Benefits of a Great Island Vacation

I have researched the archives of Psychology Today, but haven’t found any studies that  prove one can reclaim  him or herself on a deserted island. There… with nothing but the sound of the waves crashing and the exotic birds calling.

But I don’t need an academic to tell me that because I have lived it with each island I visit. The latest: a group of isolated islands off the coast of Myanmar in Southern Asia. Just me, four girl friends, & a yacht for nine glorious days.  There is nothing like being on the water for clearing the mind.

The whole Myanmar experience  – well, that’s a whole ‘nother crazy great story. But right now, I am still very Zen, so I need to share with you the importance of truly getting away – disconnecting – and making sure it is for a long enough time. I have found published proof for that. Here is why the experts say it’s valuable to travel:

1) Practice MINDFULLNESS – According to a statement by Oregon psychologist John Christensen, mindfulness is the opposite of multitasking. (An island is ideal for this – there is not much else to do!!! You just need to get over the hump of doing nothing.)

Christensen describes it as being fully present to yourself, your travel companions and your environment. It’s a way of both simplifying your vacation and recharging your mental batteries to better cope with day-to-day stress. Mindful vacations can make everything seem less important than the task at hand. We are so used to being connected – how important is it really to always check your email and news, or have a fax near you?

2) The vacation hangover can last!!! I am still practicing mindfullness at home  – each morning I spend moments focusing on the positive and being grateful. It is amazingly powerful. I can’t tell you how many times since I’ve been home that I thought the world around me just needs to chill. Call it Island Syndrome.

3)  If you’re lucky enough to travel abroad, experts say it could help you with creative thinking. Immersing yourself in a different culture can show you there’s a whole other set of customs and ways of doing things. Experts have found it makes people have a more nuanced understanding of themselves. Especially when you have a lot of quiet time, and deep talks with travel companions I might add.

4) Vacations will help you with your job performance: The psychological benefits that come with regular and frequent vacations lead to an increased quality of life and an increased quality of work.  Approaching life with a refreshed attitude gives us the tools to handle whatever comes our way.

I could add more – vacations strengthen relationships, prevent burn out, keep us healthy…. and by the way – they can be crazy fun. Get your travel on…. now. Summer is right around the corner. I know of some pristine islands with virgin sand…






 
Aug
04th
  Road Trip: You wouldn’t believe what is in your pit stop meals!

My husband and his buddy just took all of our kids camping for a couple days. Camping is a ton of work  -  I give him credit. So I’ll let him slide on the many fast food stops they made on the way there and back due to bathroom stops, hunger pains, and ah yes.. even a flat tire now and then.

Gotta love my 9 year old daughter though. She came home and said “Mom – you wouldn’t believe the disgusting fast food we saw – Del Taco has chicken nuggets filled with mac and cheese (translation: fried mac and cheese) and funnel cake fried french fries.”

That was a moment of pride. Although it still takes work to make my kids appreciate vegetables – even from our garden – this was a sign of a break through.

On this very topic, I was astonished to read an interesting article on how bad some of these meals can be at fast food, or chain restaurants that you may normally stop at while traveling. For instance, the Italian Classic sandwich at Quizno’s has 1370 calories…86 grams of fat (holy cow!).. and 4490 mg of sodium. (OMG  - the recommended amount is between 1500-2200!)

This info is right out of “Men’s Health” magazine – pretty entertaining stuff that will make you think twice before you order those cheese fries at Outback Steak House. Check it out: http://www.menshealth.com/20worst/worstfood.html.

Another interesting article is “The 10 Most Unhealthy Fast Food Items on America’s Menus” http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/06/15/the-10-most-unhealthy-fast-food-items-on-americas-menu/

But fear not you road warriors, moms and dads alike. There is a smart phone app to save you from fried food overloading. The “Good Food Near You” app lets you find healthy (or healthier anyway) meals near your locale. Type in your zip code and up will pop restaurant info and nutritional info about items.

You don’ t have to be neurotic about healthy food to enjoy this – sometimes if you had the knowledge of a healthier meal just around the corner, wouldn’t you choose it over the Kentucky Fried Chicken  right in front of you?

Go to the app store and search for “Good Foods Near You.” It isn’t perfect – users say that sometimes it merely lists the healthiest items at the fast food chains nearest you, instead of knowing of other alternatives. But that’s a start.  And… it’s free.

A Votre Sante!

 
Mar
29th
  Do Airport Body Scanners Raise Your Risk Of Cancer?

An ongoing concern….. Here I am posting the latest study reported in today’s Wall Street Journal:

A new analysis finds that full-body airport scanners don’t pose a significant health risk to passengers.

The article, published online Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, estimated the potential risks of the radiation emitted from so-called backscatter X-ray scanners, a commonly used machine. The Transportation Security Administration has installed nearly 500 full-body scanners in U.S. airports with an estimated 1,000 scanners to be installed by the end of the year.

Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco and one of the article’s authors, said the amount of radiation emitted by a full-body scan “is a drop in the bucket” compared to the amount of radiation used by X-rays and other medical-imaging procedures such as CT scans. The amount of radiation women would be exposed to from a mammogram is equal to 4,000 airport scans, while the amount from an abdominal CT scan would equal 200,000 airport scans.

Dr. Smith-Bindman said air travelers are exposed to far more radiation from flying, and that going through a full-body scan “is like one or two minutes on an airplane.” She noted everyone is exposed to radiation on a daily basis from the sun and the Earth. Flying increases the amount of radiation exposure from the sun.

The scanners deliver an additional amount of radiation that is equivalent to the amount of radiation received from three to nine minutes of daily living, the analysis found.

While much of the concern with the machines has focused on privacy because of their detailed body images, some scientists have questioned whether the machines are safe. Dr. Smith-Bindman said she was asked by the Archives of Internal Medicine to look at the radiation-safety issue. X-ray radiation can damage DNA, which can increase the risk of cancer. Although the amount of radiation emitted by the scanners is very low, Dr. Smith-Bindman says looking at cancer risks is relevant because even a small increase per person could translate into a number of cancers over a lifetime.

Dr. Smith-Bindman and Pratik Mehta, a student at UC, Berkeley, estimated the cancer risk associated with the amount of radiation used by the machines on travelers.

One calculation estimated that if 100 million passengers took 750 million flights a year, there would be an additional six cancers for that group over a lifetime attributed to the radiation from the scanners. However, the six cancers are on top of an estimated 40 million cancers that would likely occur among the 100 million passengers over a lifetime.

Another calculation looked at the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer among two million 5-year-old girls who would fly round-trip once a week for a year. It found one additional breast cancer per two million girls. This is on top of the 250,000 breast cancers that would be expected to develop over the course of the girls’ lifetimes.

“We conclude that there is no significant threat of radiation from the scans,” the authors write.

Write to Jennifer Corbett Dooren at jennifer.corbett-dooren@dowjones.com

 
Feb
09th
  Travel Tip Tuesday: Health Conscious Travelers: Mangia!

Eating around the world can be tricky…especially if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or just a health conscious eater. But now there’s a website to help – www.happycow.net. It has a global directory that offers lists of specialty restaurants in various countries – from Croatia..to Bulgaria…to Sweden. If you are caught up in the Slow Food movement…. want to eat only organic… have allergies…or choose not to eat any dairy, the directory will list restaurants that offer a variety of options. Who knew you could find a vegan friendly, Ayurvedic pizzeria in Rome? Or a juice bar (wheat-grass on happycow.net makes sense…) in Paris?

I tested some of the samples by typing in my home town… admittedly, most of the restaurants that popped up are not ones I would choose to dine in while visiting top-chef-rich Los Angeles, but for those more dedicated to staying on their restricted diets, the restaurant choices are admittedly plentiful.

Personally, I prefer to try the authentic cuisine of the region and experiment with my palette while on vacation, but the website is still helpful. It is hard to eat clog-the-arteries-rich Fettuccine Alfredo every night. The website also gives you catch phrases in different languages that you might need in a restaurant – like “I don’t eat meat, fish, or chicken…” or “I am a vegan.”

For those of you who have diet-related new year’s resolutions… you don’t have to wait until the cows come home to eat healthy while traveling… it is right here: www.happycow.net