Health Hints

Healthy fitness green salad and appleGetting sick at home is not fun. Getting sick while traveling and trying to enjoy your time off is double not fun. We talked to Dr. Charlie Shrode, a gastroenterologist practicing in Asheville, N.C., for some common-sense tips on how to avoid stomach bugs and other ailments on your next vacation.

Shrode said even though vacations are relaxing by design, getting there can be very stressful and should be treated like a rigorous event for your body. The rules of getting ready for a marathon apply: start hydrating before your trip and keep the water coming while you’re on the plane or driving. Also, try to avoid exotic, spicy or strange foods, at least for the first day.

“Ease into it. Try not to disrupt your eating routine as much as possible,” says Shrode. “When getting to your destination, stick to blander foods. If you go 180 degrees from normal right away, you can get yourself in trouble. On travel days, you might not feel yourself, which is normal. Rest a day, then go for the more decadent food.”

We all know not to drink the tap water in Mexico, but what else can you do to protect yourself at a resort south of the border? Shrode says while it may be fun to loosen up and drink a little more than normal, it’s important to at least match alcoholic drinks with water intake.

“Don’t overdo it on the alcohol. I recommend a one to one ratio of water to alcohol,” he says. “Stick to bottled water.”

He also says personal hygiene is very important to prevent spreading of G.I. bugs, especially when on a plane or cruise ship, and especially when traveling with children. Wash your hands and the hands of your family frequently to help reduce the spread of stomach bugs.

Some more tips for maintaining a healthy vacation:
• Always have a bottle of water with you and keep hydrating.
• It’s a good idea to carry a simple antacid tablet such as TUMS or Zantac with you.
• Shrode does not recommend anti-diarrhea medicine if you have an active infection in your stomach. It’s better to see a doctor as the medicine may make it worse.
• Basic ibuprofen is a great thing to have on hand for headaches and muscle and joint pain.

For those traveling to areas known to cause sickness, such as equatorial Africa, it’s important to speak to a doctor about malaria immunization. Most primary care physicians can refer you to a specialized travel doctor, or prescribe necessary pre-travel medications themselves.

Charlie Shrode is a gastroenterologist practicing with Asheville Gastroenterology Associates (a division of Digestive Health Partners) in Asheville, North Carolina. Dr. Shrode is board certified in both internal medicine and gastroenterology. Dr. Shrode received his medical degree from Indiana University and completed both his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in gastroenterology at the University of Virginia. He completed an advanced endoscopy fellowship at the University of Florida. Dr. Shrode lives in Asheville, NC, with his wife, Kirstin, and their son. Dr. Shrode is an avid traveler with a goal of seeing all the U.S. National Parks. 

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About the Author

About the Author: Pat Barcas serves as staff writer and photographer for RTX Traveler Magazine, based in Asheville, NC. His favorite RTX destinations are on the beach: Orange Beach, Alabama, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. .

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