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Originally published Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 5:06 AM

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Simple preparations can keep you healthy on holiday trips

Traveling over the holidays? Here are some suggestions to help you stay healthy while you are away.

Special to The Times

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With Thanksgiving now behind us, 2013 is fast coming to a close. December tends to be full of shopping, holiday parties and time with friends and family near and far.

If you are going away for the holidays, here are some suggestions for a smoother, healthier trip.

Avoid medication emergencies: Check your prescriptions and count your pills at least a week before you leave. If you don’t have enough to last the whole trip (plus a day or two in case of weather delays), make sure to call your pharmacy for a refill.

Keep a copy of your medication list — with dosages and how often you take them — in your wallet or purse. It can come in handy if there is an emergency. And if you already have a hard time remembering to take your pills regularly, it only gets more difficult on vacation. Try setting a timer on your cellphone to remind you when to take your pills.

Prevent dehydration: This can be particularly challenging on long flights and worse if you drink alcohol before or on your flight. If you generally don’t drink enough water, be proactive and start drinking more a few days before your trip. Over-the-counter stool softeners can also help if you tend to get constipated. A moisturizer like Cetaphil or Eucerin can keep skin moist and supple. Aquaphor ointment is great for chapped lips or patches of dry skin.

Minimize leg swelling: Reduce fluid retention by eating lower-sodium foods starting a few days before the trip. Over-the-counter compression stockings help prevent mild leg swelling, which is common when flying. Long flights increase the risk of developing blood clots, particularly if you smoke or are on birth control. Get up and walk around every hour or two. When in your seat, stretch your legs and move your feet up and down and in circles periodically.

Change your resolution date: Dec. 1 is the perfect time to start working on a more healthful diet, especially if you tend to gain a few pounds every holiday season. Getting a head start will make it easier by the time the new year rolls around. Join a gym now, which is almost guaranteed to be less crowded (and maybe less expensive) than it will be in January.

If you’ve already been getting some traction with exercise, don’t lose the momentum. Try to make it a point to walk more and eat less if there isn’t a gym at your destination.

Prevent influenza: People often travel this time of year despite being sick, and we can’t always control with whom we come in contact. It’s neither too late nor too early to get the flu shot to protect yourself and others. Wash your hands often and keep a travel-sized hand sanitizer with you. Consider wearing a mask if you’re coughing or sneezing.

May you have safe travels, good health, the warmth of loved ones this holiday season and all the best in the coming new year.

Linda Pourmassina, M.D., is an internal-medicine physician who practices at The Polyclinic in Seattle. She has a blog at and can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter (@LindaP_MD).

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