ad 4 Fahtiem

ad 4 Artemis

ad 4 Scheheresade

The Gilded Serpent presents...
Health Secrets of a Road Warrior, Part 1:
Introduction to Healthy Travel
by Shira

We received positive feedback on last year's travel checklist, and also some requests for more detail. This series of articles provides a more detailed discussion on how to stay healthy when traveling, and how to deal with common traveler's ailments.

Many of us dancers love to travel.  We take dream vacations to Egypt or Turkey, vend at festivals, or participate in week-long dance intensive courses and retreats.  However, some of us don't have much experience with travel, particularly international travel, and we might not know about the health risks that travel can pose.  In this series of articles, I'll offer you insight from my own years of experience traveling both for my day job in the technology industry and also from my perspective as a "dance tourist."

Before you try any of the ideas I've suggested in this article, please discuss them with your own doctor!  If you are pregnant or breast-feeding a baby, you need to consider how your actions might affect your baby's health. If you take prescription drugs for any reason, you'll want to make sure your cold remedies don't conflict with the behavior of those drugs. If you have allergies or immune system issues, you'll want to be careful to avoid any actions that could cause you further difficulty.  I am not a health care professional, and I don't claim to know how my techniques for travel comfort might apply to your personal health issues.

Understand Your Health Insurance
Before you leave home, research what kind of coverage your health insurance offers while you are away from home. If you have a medical emergency, will it cover care while there and medical transport home? Take along your health insurance card and information on how to invoke emergency coverage while traveling. 

If you don't normally have health insurance, consider buying special trip insurance to cover you just for this one trip. Imagine the hospital or hotel room expenses you could incur if you are too sick to board an airplane to travel home. Health emergencies are always difficult to handle, but they're even worse when you're away from home. 

If you are planning to travel as part of an organized tour, pick a tour operator with sufficient experience in the destination city to know how to deal with health emergencies. If you are planning to travel on your own, without being part of a formal tour, research in advance which hospitals in the destination city have the best reputation and take that information along.

Accidents can happen anywhere.  Or, you might have had a condition at home that you didn't know about, which may make itself known while you are traveling. Bāraka's dance career came to an end when she was struck by a bus in a parking lot in France. I have been on trips with people who sprained an ankle, broke a bone in the foot, and suffered an aneurysm in the brain, all in countries foreign to their own. It's better to be prepared by having insurance, knowing how to use it, and knowing where to seek care.

When traveling internationally, vaccinations are recommended for some destinations and not others.  Check the U.S. Department of State web site to find out what it recommends for the country you will be visiting, and also ask your doctor.  If it has been 10 years or more since your last tetanus shot, it may be advisable to get a booster regardless of your destination.

Your Normal Prescriptions
Take along all prescription items that you might normally use at home, such as blood pressure medication, insulin, birth control pills, allergy or asthma medication, etc. Don't forget to include items that you use only occasionally, such as ointment for dermatitis outbreaks, athlete's foot, acid indigestion, or other periodic conditions.

If you are traveling internationally, your prescription medications may be controlled substances in your destination country. Therefore, it's important to take along proof that you have them in your possession legally. This could include the original bottle provided by your pharmacist, and/or a printed copy of the prescription from your doctor.

Air Quality
If you are sensitive to asthma or other breathing issues, take appropriate treatments along on the trip. Your destination may have air quality very different from your home.

In some developing countries, anti-pollution laws are much less stringent than they are in places like the U.S. where environmental activism has been strong for several decades. Such countries may allow imports of older vehicles which were manufactured before exhaust systems with emission controls were mandated in their original countries.  They may not have any laws requiring the use of unleaded gasoline.

Even within the United States, one state may have different pollution-control laws than another. For example, in California cars are required to pass smog checks every 2 years as a condition for renewing their registrations, whereas other states do not have a similar requirement.

Different places have different public opinions and laws regarding tobacco. In California, it is illegal to smoke inside restaurants, office buildings, and other public places, but elsewhere smoking may be very common.

Finally, some places like Cairo experience a large amount of grit in the air due to the fact that the desert is very near, and winds carry the sand throughout the neighboring city.

All of these factors mean that people with sensitive lungs need to ensure they pack any appropriate medications, inhalers, masks, or other gear.

Motion Sickness
If you frequently suffer from motion sickness, you may want to take along your favorite preventions.  People often forget that motion sickness can attack when you are sitting on a tour bus for sightseeing or enjoying a cruise, and it's more likely to hit you when you're tired than when you're fully rested. If you take a dance workshop in a topic such as veil that involves spinning, that provides another environment where motion sickness is likely to strike.

You can pre-empt this issue by researching motion sickness before leaving home. Some people find that deep breathing, looking at the horizon, or opening a window and breathing fresh air, can ease the discomfort. Take the time to educate yourself on non-drug remedies that may be helpful.  Avoid drinking alcohol before boarding the tour bus or cruise boat.

I like to use ginger to prevent motion sickness - either in a tea or in candied form from the spice aisle of a grocery store. Pills of powdered ginger also exist.

Other people prefer acupressure wristbands or pills such as Dramamine. The acupressure wristbands never helped me, but you're free to make your own decisions. I'm wary of the drugs used in Dramamine, but I know some people like to use it.

Muscle & Joint Pain and Injuries
If you will be taking intensive dance classes at your destination or even if you just expect to spend a lot of time walking on your sightseeing excursions, don't forget to plan ahead to avoid muscle and joint pain.

Exercising when you feel fatigued can cause injury. Something as simple as stepping off a curb can lead to a painful sprain or even a broken bone in the foot or ankle if you are worn out. Take care to get plenty of rest throughout your trip, and pay special attention to where you put your feet when walking over uneven surfaces, stepping off curbs, or using staircases when fatigued.

If you're not used to doing much exercise all at once, multi-hour workshops can stress your knees and ankles. Two weeks before you go, begin taking glucosamine chondroitin tablets twice per day to fortify your joints for the expected activity.

Ballet-style legwarmers will keep your muscles from cramping when you initially begin to exercise and reduce your risk of injury.  Warm up on your own before the workshop actually begins, because many instructors don't include warm-ups as part of their class and lack of a warm-up can lead to injury. The latest advice from exercise physiologists is to warm up through a minimum of 5 minutes of gentle aerobic exercise such as walking briskly. Do not use stretches to warm up.

If you need braces or wraps to support a weak joint, use them. Constantly pay attention to your posture. Wear socks or shoes on your feet to avoid injury from beads falling off other people's hip scarves. Don't exercise when fatigued!

In the event you do injure yourself while exercising, remember the acronym RICE:  Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.  Don't hesitate to seek medical assistance if you have any reason to believe a bone may be broken!  Avoid putting any weight on the injured limb for the first 24 hours (or longer) after injuring. Apply ice packs over a towel intermittently to minimize swelling, but be careful to avoid frostbite on your skin. Continue the intermittent ice routine until you're absolutely certain the risk of swelling has passed - this should be at least 24 hours, possibly longer. Wrap an elastic bandage around the injured area and elevate it to prevent the accumulation of excess fluid known as edema.  During this initial period, avoid hot showers, heat rubs such as Ben Gay, hot packs, drinking alcohol, or taking aspirin.  Aspirin prevents blood from clotting and can make accumulation of fluid worse.

Muscles that are stiff from being used more than they are accustomed to will be grateful for hot showers, massage, heating pads, or having a hot towel placed over them.  If you normally use a product like Ben Gay to soothe stiff muscles, you may want to pack some for the trip. 

Pain Remedies
Think about pain remedies that you may need for your particular health issues such as migraines, menstrual cramps, or other conditions.  Take these items with you.  It can be difficult to find a drugstore near your hotel or retreat center when traveling, and if you are going to a different country, obtaining the brand names you are accustomed to using at home can be difficult.

Don't limit your thinking to drugs. For example, an eye shade or a cool, moist washcloth laid over your forehead and eyes can help cope with migraine, and a handheld massage device may help with some kinds of muscle pain.

Your Packing Checklist
Take the items your doctor and you agree could be helpful in your situation, and ignore the rest. Don't forget to get any recommended vaccinations before leaving home.

Here is the handy list we posted last year-
Egypt Travel Health Checklist by Shira

More to Come.
This is Part 1 of a series of articles on travel health issues for road warriors. 
Future articles will cover:

  • Coping with Jet Lag
  • How to Avoid Catching a Cold While Traveling
  • Traveler's Diarrhea

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
more from Shira-

Daughters of Shahrazad: Face to Face Cultural Encounters Through the Expressive Arts of Middle Eastern Women On March 5, 2005, a unique conference in Iowa honored International Women’s Month.

6-16-04 Egypt Travel Health Checklist
Here is a packing checklist that may help you anticipate your own needs.

2-12-04 When Comparing & Contrasting
Often, people base their negative judgments of other styles on student-quality performances.

5-28-05 Rakkasah West Festival 2005 Photos- Saturday Page 1 photos by GS Staff and Friends
More to come!

5-27-05 The Rhythm and Reason Series Article 2- Special Experiences  by Mary Ellen Donald
The audience of mainly flamenco aficionados gave our Arabic Suite a clamorous response.  This bringing together of bellydance and flamenco had begun as a flash of imagination in Cruz' mind.

5-18-05 Atef Farag: A Life in Dance Interview by Debbie Lammam
Pure Egyptian dance does tolerate a lot of sexual innuendo that is not present in my work.

ad 4 Casbah Dance

ad 4 Suzanna Del Vecchio

ad 4 Silk Spirit

ad 4 Rhythm Fusion

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines