Category: General Wellness Tips

Travel Prep for Now (and the Foreseeable Future)

how to stay healthy while traveling

This summer, we all need to understand how to stay healthy while traveling.

After returning home from her recent trip to Europe, my friend Dee seemed a bit cloudy. I chalked it up to jet lag. But then she told me she had a fever and was worried she’d caught COVID-19 on her trip. I knew she had been vaccinated, and although it was unlikely that she had gotten the disease, her concern was justified: Vaccinations aren’t 100% preventative for catching the disease. I asked her if she had taken any Vitamin C while she was away, but she had not. 

She then said to me, “You should write a blog about travel preparation for those of us who have been vaccinated.” 

So I thought, why not?!

I love to travel — but preparing for it has become more complicated in recent years. This may, in part, be because I’m older, but it also has to do with changes in the quality of hotels, evolving airline services, and the ever increasing cloud of seemingly ubiquitous radio-frequency radiation. 

During the next few weeks, I’ll be taking my two teenagers to East Africa for an extended vacation. We will be out in the bush searching for chimpanzees, gorillas, and the usual safari fare of lions, hippos, giraffes, elephants, and more. This trip required A LOT of preparation. Aside from the COVID-19 vaccinations, we were required to get vaccinated for yellow fever. I thought hepatitis A vaccines were a good idea too. I am not fond of vaccinations, but they are a useful tool and sometimes necessary. Choosing malaria prophylaxis was another important decision. We decided on malarone, a decision based on our specific travel destination and the types of malaria endemic there. 

Wherever you’re headed this summer, you’ll want to do your homework. The rules and regulations — whether those imposed by airlines or your destination — are changing often, even weekly. Flight times unexpectedly change. Some countries require COVID PCR antigen testing right before you leave for your trip and again after you arrive. In some countries, COVID tests are required every couple of days while you’re there! Masks are mandatory on planes and in many other countries, even if you have been vaccinated. It’s important to be flexible and patient. Or as we used to say in high school … be cool.

Domestic travel is a lot easier. But regardless of where I go, I bring along a a few necessities that make traveling much more pleasant and keep me healthy.

The List

  • A sleep mask

Hotel chains often have shades that “almost fit” the window. When glaring flood lights illuminate the outside of the building at night, they often light up the interior of the room, too. In addition, digital displays from the microwave, smoke detector, light switches, and clock further increase the ambient light in the room. Because melatonin production is dependent on being in darkness at night, the sleep mask is extremely helpful!

  • A pair of high performance ear plugs – NRR of 32 dB or greater.

The ears never turn off, so ear plugs can be extremely useful. This is especially true when you get a room near an elevator, or if hotel guests come in late at night and party in the hallway or in a nearby room. Please opt for the silicone or gel variety of ear plugs and STAY AWAY from noise cancelling ear buds which work via Bluetooth. There’s no reason to expose your brain to radiofrequency radiation when you are trying to sleep.

  • Supplements

I am in the habit of taking vitamin supplementation daily, and I take them with me on vacation — they’re an essential part of knowing how to stay healthy while traveling. At a minimum, I take 1000 mg of Vitamin C and 5000 iu of Vitamin D daily. These vitamins both offer important antioxidant properties that help the immune system stay in shape even if it gets hit hard by jet lag and late nights partying.

  • A portable water purifier

Although you can purchase plastic water bottles pretty much anywhere, I bring a portable water filtration system that allows me to drink the tap water in the airport, in the hotel, or anywhere else without worrying about ingesting contaminants such as lead, organic compounds and chlorine/ chloramine. I prefer the PiMag Sports Bottle offered by Nikken. They have redesigned the cap in the last few years, and now it works great! If I’m heading to the beach, I’ll also pack a silicone-wrapped glass or stainless steel canister to transport my purified water to the beach. It’s not a good idea to bring plastic water bottles to the beach, as sunlight and heat can cause the toxins in the plastic to leach out into the water.

Know that this water purification system and others like it do not sanitize the water, so if you are drinking water from a source that could have bacterial contamination, like a stream or an untreated well, you need to treat the water first, with either iodine tablets or a SteriPen before putting the water through the filtration bottle.

  • Sunscreen

In a recent blog post, I wrote about sunscreens. Sunblock and lip protection should be chosen with care (and in advance!) 

  • EMF shield

Too often, we don’t think about radiation while considering how to stay healthy while traveling. When I check into the hotel room, the first thing I do is unplug the clock radio and the heavy-duty outlets that now come adherent to the night stands on either side of the bed. I’ve taken my EMF detector into too many rooms only to see that the bed is often flanked by powerful electromagnetic fields until these devices are unplugged. During one hotel stay, I took the following videos showing the electric field strength and magnetic field strength emitted by a clock radio (electric fields)(magnetic fields).

Unfortunately, hotels have become anything but relaxing for many people due to the increasing demand for radiofrequency radiation from wireless devices. Hotel rooms are filled with radiofrequency radiation as you can see from this demonstration. If you are sensitive to EMF, there are several options for you to choose from, depending on your degree of sensitivity. A portable bed canopy is available and although it is an expensive item, I highly recommend it for someone with moderate to severe EMF sensitivity. 

Another product to consider is the Blushield. I use their portable travel device. Although I don’t think a device like this can prevent all of the potentially harmful effects of EMF, it does create an energetic calmness in a room, making it more conducive to sleep. 

I hope you find this guide helpful and that it helps you understand how to stay healthy while traveling this summer. We are all ready to go on vacation after being cooped up for more than a year. Have fun this summer and stay healthy!

How I Choose the Safest Sunscreen for My Family

I waited.

“Dad, it’s a process,” my daughter said. She took the caps off each appealingly labelled product and sniffed. “This one smells like the beach!”

I took a whiff and smiled. “Yes. It does.”

Then I muttered something about chemicals as we made our way to the register.

Every spring, I review the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen review and order a product I consider safer and more effective than the commercial brands available in most retail stores. This year, though, I forgot the sunscreen. Which meant my daughter and I headed into the shops.

What I saw there confirmed my suspicions: products focused on hyped-up marketing claims, with dubious ingredients. It used to be that you could walk into any beach store and buy sunscreen products from a variety of vendors, with an SPF of 2 through 15. Then, 30 came out … then 45, then 50, 60. Now, there are sunblocks claiming an SPF of 100!

Sunscreen is convenient, smells good, and looks clean, especially when it blends in, allowing your natural skin to show through. In today’s culture, an uncovered body at the beach, glistening in the sun, is much more alluring than one cloaked in a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a hat. Even though the latter is much more effective at blocking the sun’s potentially damaging rays, sunscreen is clearly most people’s choice.

It is important, though, to understand how sunscreen can potentially damage your body while it protects your skin. The skin is alive. It is our body’s largest organ — and we need to protect it. Sunscreens can help do that, by blocking a small bandwidth of electromagnetic radiation from reaching and harming your skin. That bandwidth — and the effectiveness with which they can achieve this protection — are specific to each product. But sunscreens touting an SPF are designed to block the ultraviolet blue-B (UV-B) frequencies. Broad-spectrum products block a wider swath of UV radiation, including both the UV-B and UV-A bandwidths.

Without that protection, with increasing sun exposure, your risk for sunburn increases. Unfortunately, unpredictable effects, referred to as stochastic effects, also occur with increasing exposure, which can include the development of cancer.

It can be a balancing act, though, because while sunscreen can help protect your skin, many sunscreens do so through the use of chemicals. Skin absorbs many materials applied to its surface, which can enter the bloodstream and affect the body’s function. Chemicals used in personal care products, including sunscreen, can affect the endocrine system and throw your hormones off kilter. We slather this liquid all over our bodies, and if following directions, repeat application several times a day. By the end of a beach vacation week, you have undoubtedly absorbed a heck of a lot of toxins through your skin, depending on the product(s) you used each day.

That’s why I consult the EWG every spring and choose one of their recommended sunscreens.The EWG considers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the safest sunscreen ingredients to effectively block UV-B radiation. The EWG even considers nanoparticles of these compounds as safe for skin application, since the nanoparticles aren’t apparently absorbed into the skin, at least according to blood tests. From my experience though, blood tests don’t usually tell the whole story. Toxins can bioaccumulate in the body’s tissues without continuously circulating in the blood, where it can be extracted during a blood test. The detrimental environmental impact of nanoparticles is another matter you may wish to consider before choosing a product utilizing this technology.

Which SPF to Choose?

We’ve been trained to look for the highest possible SPF. I think the general, nonscientific consensus is that if you want to protect yourself from sunburn, you want the higher number — because in Western culture, more is better. But a super-high SPF is no guarantee of protection. You have no doubt witnessed people at the beach or the pool spraying on a product touting an SPF 50, missing large swaths of their skin surface, only to have angry red splotches and bands of sunburn at the end of the day.

When some people apply a sunscreen of 50 or 60, they think they can spend the whole day out in the sun, completely protected from damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. But they aren’t. Although most of the discussion re: skin cancer is centered over our exposure to ultraviolet light, some believe that all frequencies of electromagnetic radiation can have biological effects and in excess can cause skin damage, including cancer formation. And, by the way, I’m one of them. You have no doubt heard that melanoma can occur between your toes and in other parts of your body where the sun don’t shine!

What I Recommend

Taking antioxidants such as 1000 mg Vitamin C twice a day is a great supplement that can help rid your body of unwanted potentially damaging compounds brought from excessive sun exposure. In addition to taking antioxidants, I do recommend you wear sunscreen if you plan to spend an extended amount of time in the summer sun. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen list. See how your usual product rates and then choose from among the many brands they deem safe. I personally like thinksport for lip protection and sunumbra for body and face. But, there are many excellent brands to choose from.

I believe SPF choice is personal and dependent on skin type. I personally wear a sunscreen with a lower SPF because I like to feel the sun’s intensity so I can better judge when I’ve had enough and need to either head inside, or go under cover. Regardless of the SPF you choose, if you are going to be spending the whole day out in the sun at the beach or elsewhere, bring an umbrella, a hat, sunglasses, and perhaps long-sleeve clothing to cover up in when you’ve had enough sun exposure. Plan to spend at least part of the day under cover. Giraffes do it, so can we!