Traveling abroad for spring break? Follow these health and safety tips for smooth sailing

Sun and surf are top priorities for many people who travel to exotic locations for “spring break. But health and safety risks may lurk behind the scenes in some countries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers several tips to help ensure smooth sailing before, during and after spring break.

Before your trip

  • Vaccines or medicines may be recommended depending on your destination. See your doctor or a health care professional at least one month before you depart for an international trip.
  • Check the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories and alerts by country. Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program in case of an emergency.
  • Pack a travel health kit with items you might need on your trip, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and condoms. If you forget something like sunscreen, you probably can buy it at your destination, but medicine brands, dosage and quality may differ. Bring written prescriptions.
  • Many health insurance plans don’t cover medical care in other countries; check yours. Consider buying trip cancellation, travel insurance or travel medical insurance, especially if you will be going to a remote place.

During your trip

  • Be careful when tasting local food and drink. In developing countries, eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot: son’t eat fresh vegetables or fruits unless you can peel them; drink bottled, sealed beverages; and avoid ice since it’s probably made with tap water.
  • Use insect repellent and other measures to prevent insect bites that can cause diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever and Zika.
  • Practice sun protection. Remember you can get a sunburn when it’s cloudy. Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15, a hat and sunglasses.
  • Choose safe transportation, wear a seat belt and be alert when crossing the street. Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among healthy travelers.

If you get sick or injured while traveling and need immediate medical attention, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that country to help find medical services.

Specific health risks

Zika: Many popular spring break destinations in the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico have a risk of Zika. Because the virus can cause birth defects and is spread by mosquitoes and sex, travelers to at-risk areas should prevent mosquito bites and use condoms during sex. The CDC advises pregnant women not to travel to areas with a risk of Zika. Check the CDC’s Zika page for information by country.

Yellow fever: Brazil has an ongoing yellow fever outbreak, so travelers should check the risk level at their specific destination. Get a yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before travel (only certain U.S. clinics offer the yellow fever vaccine; find a clinic near you) and prevent mosquito bites, which is how the virus spreads.

Flu: Many countries have reported widespread flu outbreaks. Get your annual flu shot at least two weeks before a trip. During travel, wash your hands often and avoid people who are coughing or appear sick.

Measles. There are outbreaks in popular places such as Brazil, France, Greece and Italy. Make sure your MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is up to date.

Norovirus: Outbreaks of this virus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, have been reported on cruise ships. Wash your hands frequently and practice safe eating and drinking habits during on-shore excursions.

Hepatitis B: Avoid getting tattoos or piercings abroad to prevent infection caused by the hepatitis B virus.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Use condoms to reduce your risk.

After your trip

If you don’t feel well after your trip, contact your doctor or a medical professional. You may have picked up a virus or infection. The CDC provides a list of travel medical clinics.

Don’t let a preventable illness or poor planning ruin your trip or your return home.

Note: The featured photo at the top of this blog post is by Oliver Sjöström at https://ollivves.com. The image is publicly available on Pixels.

Trip to Waco, Texas, reveals old-timey wintry drink: hot Dr Pepper (really)

What better way to warm frozen fingers with frigid temperatures across much of the country than a hot drink.

Try hot Dr. Pepper. Yup, I said hot soda.

It sounds weird, but it’s tasty — and I don’t even like cold Dr Pepper. It was offered when I visited the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas, so I had to try it. When heated, the distinctive flavor of Dr Pepper becomes a delicious herbal tea.

Today, you can still get hot Dr Pepper Frosty’s Soda Shop at the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas, even though it’s not on the menu. You’ll have to hurry because the seasonal drink is served only from November to February, according to Lauren Schlee, the museum’s visitor services coordinator. It costs 99 cents a cup (plus tax), she said.

Frosty's Soda Shop menu
Note the Dr Pepper Sundae on Frosty’s Soda Shop’ menu at the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas.

If you want to try hot Dr Pepper at home, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group website suggests heating the soda to 180 degrees in a stovetop pot, then pouring it over a thin slice of lemon in a mug. Look for Dr Pepper in glass bottles that’s made with real sugar.

It turns out the drink has been around longer than I have. A former president of Dr Pepper Co. invented HOT Dr Pepper in 1958 to offer a drink that would warm up people during the winter. It was a popular holiday drink through the 1970s and the company continued to promote HOT Dr Pepper sporadically after the 1980s.

HOT Dr Pepper harkens back to the roots of the nation’s oldest major soda as a curative.

“It’s important to note that when we think of a health drink today, it is much different than what would have been considered healthy more than 100 years ago,” said Rachael Nadeau Johnson, collections manager at the museum. “Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, sodas of all kinds were used for their supposed health benefits.”

Back then, the Dr Pepper company used slogans like “Just What the Doctor Ordered” and “Vim, Vigor, and Vitality.” It also created the “Old Doc” logo — a country doctor with a monocle and top hat, in the 1920s and 1930s.

Dr. Charles Alderton, a young pharmacist at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, is credited with inventing the recipe for Dr Pepper in 1885, according to the museum. The formula, according to Johnson, is a secret.

The Dr Pepper Museum is about 90 minutes from Dallas by car. (GoogleMaps)[/caption]Dr Pepper’s recipe reportedly contains 23 natural and artificial fruit flavors that provide its unique flavor, according to the Dr Pepper Snapple Group website. The company and the museum are not connected.

The museum, which opened in 1991, is home to one of the world’s largest collections of soft drink memorabilia, including less-known names like Kickapoo Joy Juice and Vernors. The museum entrance fee is $10 for adults; less for students and seniors. It’s free for children age four and younger.

You can visit Frosty’s without entering the museum, but both are worth a stop if you’re in the area.

Map of Dr Pepper Museum, Waco
It takes about 90 minutes to drive from Dallas to the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas. (GoogleMaps)

Road trip food: Make cookies from frozen dough

Who doesn’t love a road trip?

Food, however, is always a problem on long drives. There’s either not enough or too much. And although I usually pack healthy snacks, such as fruit and nuts, it’s hard not to pick up candy or potato chips at the first rest stop.

So, in preparation for a recent road trip, I decided to make a tasty, portable snack that I hoped could stave off a junk food binge. I also wanted to make dessert for lunch guests coming before the trip.

frozen cookie dough balls
This is what frozen cookie dough looks like after spending several hours in the freezer. (Sheryl Jean)

I realized I could bake some cookies and freeze the rest of the dough to make a fresh batch later.

I dug through my clipped recipe file and found a favorite: chocolate chip oatmeal walnut cookies (recipe below). Yum!

On the eve of the lunch, I made the dough, rolling it into little balls. I baked a dozen balls into cookies that night and froze the rest.

To freeze, I lined two baking sheets with parchment paper and placed as many balls of dough as I could without touching each other. I stuck them in the freezer until the dough hardened — a few hours or overnight. (It’s a slightly different process to freeze slice-and-bake or cut-out cookie dough.)

After removing the frozen dough balls, I placed them in a large plastic freezer bag, squeezing out excess air before zipping it closed. Cookie dough can keep in the freezer for up to three months.

When you’re ready to use the frozen dough, simply take as many individual balls as you want out of the bag and place them on a cookie sheet. Add an extra minute or two to the baking directions in the recipe.

Continue reading for the recipe. Continue reading Road trip food: Make cookies from frozen dough

How to stay healthy while traveling

When I arrived home last week after an extended trip, my snuggest pair of jeans still fit.

While I don’t suggest losing weight as a holiday goal, I advocate staying healthy and active while traveling.

One of the great joys of travel is trying new things, whether it be food, drink or experiences. And people are apt to splurge while on holiday. So, go ahead and enjoy that German Schnitzel or trifle, just balance it with some vegetables in between.

The winter holidays bring special challenges because most of us eat more — and perhaps richer — food than we usually do. It’s important to stay active while spending quality time with family and friends. Take group walks before eating dinner and after dessert. Plan group outings, such as hiking, ice skating or sledding.

The fruit option for breakfast on a recent Qantas Airways flight from Sydney, Australia, to San Francisco. (Sheryl Jean)

Here are some of my tips to help you stay healthy while traveling any time of the year:

Stay hydrated: Drink as much liquid — preferably water — as possible to stay hydrated o a plane and on the ground. It’s good for your skin and aids in digestion. Avoid caffeine.

Make smart in-flight food choices: Bring or buy healthier food, such as fruit, salad or hummus, on U.S. flights. On international flights, choose fruit instead of the egg-sausage breakfast and skip dessert. Avoid salt and salty snacks, which will help your body retain water.

Continue reading How to stay healthy while traveling