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Planning makes vacation more healthful

Most people look forward to their summer vacation for months. In fact, it might be the only thing that gets some folks through dreary winter days and overwhelming demands at work.

The anticipation of a two-week camping trip or a European adventure is energizing, but packing up the family for two weeks away from home can be stressful, and so can traveling. Getting sick while away can ruin an otherwise wonderful vacation.

To minimize the risks of health troubles on the road, here are a few tips. First, get all your prescriptions refilled in advance, and make sure you take them with you. You would be amazed how many people end up having to beg a pharmacist in an unfamiliar city to fill a week's worth of critical medication.

Many drugs produce unpleasant or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms if you forget to take them on schedule.

Keep all critical pills with you in your carry-on luggage if you are flying. An asthma attack or heart palpitations at 30,000 feet could turn into a disaster if your medication is in the belly of the plane. For international travel, a letter from your doctor regarding any pain medicine or other restricted medications you need could save you difficulties and delays at customs.

If you are traveling by car, don't store your drugs in the glove compartment or a suitcase in the trunk of your car. High temperatures can bake medication and accelerate deterioration. The heart medicine nitroglycerin is especially vulnerable.

When traveling, digestive-tract upset is not uncommon. Constipation is a frequent complaint of travelers. We recommend getting lots of fluids and fiber. Taking along some psyllium powder (Metamucil, Perdiem Fiber, Serutan, etc.) can be easier than trying to locate your favorite bran cereal in Paris. Take along sugarless chewing gum as well. A few sticks now and then might keep everything moving. Too much, however, may cause diarrhea.

Speaking of diarrhea, this is another common hazard of venturing abroad. Montezuma's revenge, Delhi belly or King Tut gut can ruin a trip. Take along some shredded coconut or coconut macaroon cookies. This home remedy might work wonders against diarrhea. Pepto-Bismol can be taken preventively (as long as it doesn't interact with other drugs) to reduce the risk of traveler's diarrhea.

Summer vacations carry a high risk of sunburn and bug bites. Prevention is best for these problems, so take along your favorite sunscreen and a good insect repellent. Check with the pediatrician before using either insect repellent or sun screen on very young children, though.

A simple pain reliever such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen is a must for the travel kit. A cold compress does wonders for a sprain, so if you are going where there is no ice, carry along an instant cold pack and a compression bandage.

For blisters and burns, a product called 2nd Skin does a wonderful job. Put a package in your travel kit, because it can be hard to find in some places. Benadryl does triple duty against allergies, insomnia and even motion sickness.

Wherever you go, organizing your pills and first-aid supplies in an easy-to-access kit is crucial. Camping-supply stores often sell pouches that serve nicely for this purpose.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 235 E 45th St., New York, NY 10017, or e-mail them via their Web site,

King Features Syndicate, Inc.