Travel clinic

Too much sun. Stom­ach com­plaints. An­kle grief. But canny trav­ellers can al­ways bounce back from th­ese com­mon is­sues, es­pe­cially if they fol­low Dr Jane Wil­son-howarth’s tips…

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents - with Doc­tor Jane Dr Jane Wil­son-howarth lives in the Kath­mandu Val­ley where she is plot­ting a new book to fol­low Snowfed Wa­ters. Read her blog at www.wil­son-howarth.com

Com­mon ills are all part of travel – here’s how to bounce back quickly

Heat ex­haus­tion

It takes the body about ten days to move fat around and read­just the salt loss from sweat that comes with a hot cli­mate. This is why it is un­wise to charge around try­ing to see every sight as soon as you ar­rive in the trop­ics. That is only likely to lead to burnout and heat ex­haus­tion, or even heat stroke.

In the ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion stage it is es­pe­cially im­por­tant to keep a care­ful eye on urine out­put – both its colour and quan­tity. Wise trav­ellers pro­duce a min­i­mum of three good­vol­ume, light-coloured uri­na­tions per 24 hours. And any­one sud­denly de­vel­op­ing an appetite for salty foods shouldn’t read this as an un­healthy aber­ra­tion, but must re­alise this is the body call­ing for help. Re­spond by adding salt to your food or drink­ing salty drinks – fresh lime so­das in India, for ex­am­ple, come as sweet or salty. And hot, thin soups are sur­pris­ingly re­fresh­ing in the trop­ics.

In hot cli­mates it is re­ally easy to keep in­suf­fi­ciently hy­drated. If the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture is high, you’ll be los­ing wa­ter through sweat, and of­ten you will be ex­er­cis­ing more than at home – that is an­other rea­son to be sweat­ing more. In ad­di­tion, if your stools are a bit more liq­uid, you’ll be los­ing more fluid than usual via this route, too. So, if you feel weak and wilted, and es­pe­cially if you have de­vel­oped a headache, you’ll be as­ton­ished how much bet­ter you feel if you glug down at least a litre of clear fluid – fresh lime soda, 7Up, weak tea, coconut milk. But re­mem­ber that a litre is a lot more than the usual vol­ume of drink you are ac­cus­tomed to taking.

Do also al­low your­self some chill time. Travel is stress­ful, and if you are too goal-driven, you’ll have less time for peo­ple-watch­ing and for those won­der­ful un­ex­pected con­ver­sa­tions you end up hav­ing with in­ter­est­ing lo­cals when you just sit and en­joy.

Grum­bling tums

When you have that feel­ing of things not be­ing quite right in the gas­troin­testi­nal de­part­ment – even if the symp­toms are slight – it is im­por­tant to lis­ten to your body and give it a chance to heal. Don’t feel you have to keep eat­ing to keep go­ing.

If your appetite is poor, eat lit­tle – and choose low or fat-free, high car­bo­hy­drate foods (not fatty crisps but plain crack­ers, toast, boiled veg­eta­bles, rice, etc) with plenty of flu­ids. Fat is chal­leng­ing for a sick gut to cope with, so be very slow to rein­tro­duce much into your diet. Yo­ghurt, though, can be very sooth­ing – both to an acid stom­ach and also to a di­ar­rhoea-rav­aged lower bowel; it pro­vides friendly bac­te­ria to re­colonise the in­tes­tine.

A very com­mon mis­take that peo­ple make if they have been up-coun­try or vis­it­ing places where the lo­cal diet is lim­ited, is to overindulge upon their re­turn. It is best to ease back into your nor­mal diet over sev­eral days, ini­tially lim­it­ing the amount of fat and spir­its you con­sume, oth­er­wise you risk belly­aches.

That lin­ger­ing cold

In­creas­ingly, big cities the world over have filthy air,

‘Keep­ing sup­port on too long can weaken the mus­cles that sta­bilise a joint, so there is a bal­ance to strike be­tween pro­tec­tion and re­hab’

and of­ten a com­mon cold that you picked up on the flight will linger longer than the usual week you’d ex­pect.

The si­nuses are spa­ces at the front of the skull that – like the nose – gen­er­ate mu­cous. There is a de­sign fault in the si­nuses, though. Their drainage chan­nels are half­way up, which means mu­cous can sit in them, only emp­ty­ing when the head is tilted. This can lead to si­nusi­tis. Mu­cous over­flow is either man­i­fest as a drib­bly nose or a sen­sa­tion that stuff is run­ning down the back of the throat; of­ten this causes a tickly cough.

As the body’s re­sponse to areal pol­lu­tion is to gen­er­ate more mu­cous, a per­sist­ing ‘cold’ in a con­gested city may be helped by steam in­hala­tions. Boil a ket­tle, pour boil­ing wa­ter into a soup bowl or cup, then put a towel over your head and in­hale. Do­ing that for a minute or two every hour for up to three times in a day will al­low you to blow out the ex­cess mu­cous, and that will also cure any pain at the front of the face. And if you are plan­ning to spend a fair chunk of time any­where ur­ban, con­sider pack­ing a pol­lu­tion mask to wear while abroad.

An­kle sprain

A mis­step or turned an­kle can be oh-so com­mon when pave­ments at your des­ti­na­tion are rough or the ter­rain un­even. The first aid mea­sure is to ap­ply a cold com­press (a wet cloth will suf­fice) and el­e­vate the in­jured part above heart height. If the sprain is bad or you in­tend to con­tinue rough hik­ing, the in­jured part will need strap­ping. But keep­ing sup­port on too long can weaken the mus­cles that sta­bilise the joint, so there is a bal­ance to strike be­tween pro­tec­tion from fur­ther in­jury and care­ful re­hab.

In ad­di­tion, po­si­tional sen­sa­tion is lost af­ter a leg in­jury, so when the pain al­lows, peo­ple should prac­tise stand­ing on one leg with eyes closed to read­just. Phys­ios say you should aim to be able to bal­ance, eyes closed, on the in­jured leg for a full 30 sec­onds. This isn’t easy and takes some weeks to achieve, but when re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is over­looked, an­kles are at risk of re-in­jury.

Thirst aid Drinks like salty lime so­das help re­plen­ish salts and wa­ter lost by sweat­ing

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