Let’s discuss travel. It’s become one of my most favorite past times with my hubby and a great way to relax and release, although I had a slight fear of flying. The more we do it, the less freaked out I am. A little prayer and on flight cocktail never hurt. If you’re like me, distraction is key. I have to take my music, laptop and a magazine to concentrate on so I’m not so focused on the turbulence or how high up we are.
One of the most challenging patient issues I have to deal with is swelling, otherwise known as edema. I have a large variety of patients, big and small, young and old, that come in complaining of this, even when not traveling. It’s sometimes on one side, both sides, constant, or intermittent. It can be due to something simple or open up a gamut of medical possibilities.
Kidney issues can lead to swelling if there is lack of blood flow or strain on the kidneys. These two organs are most affected by conditions, such as dehydration, high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood sugar (diabetes) and drugs and medications. Renal insufficiency or renal failure can cause decreased filtering through the small tubules inside the kidney, leading to increased protein in the blood and water being leaked out, thereby causing swelling.
Being in high atmospheric pressures or stuck on an airplane for hours on end can do this, too. So, what can you do? Limit your salt intake is one thing. Avoid the French fries, salted pretzels, and potato chips. Salt and sodium are like magnets to water, causing swelling. Another trick is to get up and walk around every hour or so. When I was pregnant with each of my two babies, we traveled internationally. If anyone here has been pregnant, you remember how much your legs looked like sausages. I made sure to do calf stretches often when seated and get up every hour to do a lap in the aisles. I made sure to get a seat as close to the aisle as possible, to avoid getting on people’s nerves.
Get your vaccines, people. Please don’t go all the way to another continent and not know when your last tetanus shot was. We would not like to be exposed to malaria you brought back (tetanus doesn’t protect you from malaria, by the way) as a gift, please. But seriously, please see a Travel Clinic or your primary care doctor before leaving the country, so we can make sure you don’t need a prescription to take something weeks before you leave and while you’re there
Also, not all clinics carry all vaccines in their building. Things like Yellow Fever and Dengue Fever vaccines have to be ordered, and it could take a while to get. So, do yourself and your doctors a favor and let us know more than a week before leaving for Africa that you’re going. You might be setting yourself up.
Feel free to follow me on social media, @docswiner, and ask any questions you might have. I’m honored to be a part of this experience and hope you have safe travels.