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Make Spring Break Safe And Healthy

Northwestern Medicine expert offers tips for a healthy vacation

CHICAGO, March 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It's that time of year again –bags are packed and people all across the country are on their way to a week filled with fun in the sun. Spring break is a good time for rest and relaxation, but vacation is also a time when many of us lose track of healthy practices including nutritious eating or common sense safety rules.    Northwestern Medicine ® experts suggest following some easy tips to keeping spring break fun and safe. "You can enjoy yourself and a few indulgences while still keeping your health a priority in the midst of spring break travel," said Kimbra Bell, MD, an internal medicine physician with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group.

Below are Bell's tips to stay healthy during spring break vacations:

  • Protect your skin. If traveling to a sun-filled destination, wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and most importantly, do not forget to re-apply every two hours.  This will protect against the sun's harmful rays which predispose a person to skin cancer, including melanoma.
  • Eat healthy. A healthy diet is important – even while on vacation.  Be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in meals and drink lots of water.  Nutritious food will keep the body fueled and well-hydrated, providing plenty of energy to engage in activities all day.  In addition, the foundation for any day is a healthy breakfast.
  • Stay hydrated. Oftentimes spring break can involve various days filled with strenuous activities from rock climbing to various kinds of sports; keeping hydrated is essential with any sort of physical activity.  Remember to stay well-hydrated with at least 48 ounces of water per day.  A general rule of thumb would be a minimum of three to four 16 ounce standard water bottles per day.  
  • Pick luggage wisely. If carrying a purse, wear one that can be strapped across the body and has a zipper, not a snap closure or an open closure. A secure zipper can thwart "pick pocket" attempts and decrease the chances of someone grabbing the purse and running away with it.
  • Get plenty of sleep.   A good night's rest is the foundation for renewing and refueling the body for the next day. Adults should strive to get six to eight hours of sleep each night; even on vacation where sleep can sometimes seem secondary to having fun.    

For college students and young adults who are taking spring break trips, Bell reminds that making smart choices and using common sense is one of the best ways to stay safe on spring break. She recommends the following safety tips:

  • Do not travel alone. While on spring break, always move about in pairs or groups.  Traveling alone increases your chances of being a victim of theft or other crime.
  • Take caution if consuming alcohol. If consuming alcoholic drinks (or nonalcoholic beverages) in a public space, never leave a beverage unattended; this can expose the risk of someone putting an unknown substance into the drink. Discard any drink that has been left unattended. Avoid overindulgence which can lead to serious injury or illness and never operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Protect yourself. For those engaging in sexual activity while on spring break, taking safety precautions is essential. Remember, consuming alcohol can cloud judgment and result in bad decision making; it's crucial to assure that both parties are consenting and capable of making decisions. Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are on the rise among young adults. While the only way to be 100 percent protected against STI is to abstain from sexual activity, condoms can prevent transmission of STI between sexual partners.
  • Check in back at home. While it's easy to stay disconnected while on vacation, vacationers should always keep contact with family or friends at home. Plan to check in with parents or other family members at least two to three times over the course of a trip, which will let them know that you are safe and having a good time. If someone expects to hear from you, an immediate red flag will be raised if you don't make contact.

When in doubt, Bell recommends that young adults follow their instincts and make choices that feel best to them. "Remember, you are your own person and if the group that you are with chooses to engage in an activity that you are not comfortable with, do not be afraid to decline participation," said Bell.  "It's better to be safe than sorry.  Find someone who can escort you back to a safe place, such as your hotel room, and then grab your iPad or a good book and relax by the pool."

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