Quick Health Fixes for Everything That Could Go Wrong On Vacation

Help for whatever comes up, wherever you go this season.

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The next time you're in need of a quick fix, we have your back.

Ow, A Bee Stung Me!

Buzzkill! If you have symptoms like weird swelling, trouble breathing, or nausea, call 911. About 3 percent of adults have a severe allergic reaction to stings. Otherwise, focus on getting the stinger out — it keeps pumping venom even after the bee is gone.

"Scrape it off with a credit card or something with a stiff edge," says Michael G. Millin, MD, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Popping an antihistamine might help the itch; try acetaminophen for pain.

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Is That Poison Ivy?

Leaves of three — and you didn't let them be. No wilderness survival badge for you, but let's ace first aid: The so-itchy rash from poison ivy, oak, or sumac is a reaction to urushiol, a chemical in the plants' oil. The key is removing the oil ASAP from your body and everything you were wearing. If possible, use Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser, a poison oak and ivy wash (teclabsinc.com to locate stores), Millin says. Or rinse off your skin with soap and water, and scrub under your nails. (If your pet was exposed, wear long rubber gloves and give him a bath.) Launder clothing that brushed up against bad leaves separately in the washing machine with regular detergent. To treat the rash, apply hydrocortisone cream. If it's all over your body or in critical areas like your face or groin, see an MD, and if you're having a severe reaction, call 911.

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Hydration 101

Two rules to remember: Drink when you're thirsty, and keep an eye on your pee. Dark yellow means you're dehydrated and need more liquids, especially if you've been out in the heat or exercising. In that case, swig fluids that have electrolytes. To cut sugar and calories, "water a sports drink down to a 50-50 mixture," Millin says.

Razor Bumps On Your Bikini Line

You're more prone to getting shaving bumps in this area than on your legs because the hair is coarser here. Swipe on an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to reduce redness. For smooth sailing next time, use a shaving-specific cream or gel to lubricate the skin, and buy razors with only one or two blades, since they cause less trauma, says Mona Gohara, MD, a Connecticut-based dermatologist.

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Roughly one in six people get sick from foodborne illnesses each year, according to the CDC, and summer is a prime time for that to happen, since bacteria in food multiply when temps are high. The worst usually passes within a day or two. Until then, try to drink lots of fluids with electrolytes, Millin says. To be safer going forward: At restaurants, skip anything perishable that's sitting around unrefrigerated. (Look carefully at that buffet table!) Prepping your own meal? Make sure you wash any leafy greens well — they're one of the most common sources of food poisoning.

Streaky Blisters On Hands and Forearms

It might be "Lime Disease" — not to be confused with Lyme disease! You can get it when you squirt yourself with lime juice while cooking or mixing drinks and then go out in the sun; the UV light interacts with the citrus and causes a skin reaction. (Lemon juice, celery, and parsley can also leave your skin sun sensitive and result in blisters.) The damage usually doesn't appear for 24 hours, says Gohara, "so people don't realize that citrus brought it on and they come in panicked." Dab the area with petroleum jelly or hydrocortisone cream: The blisters should vanish within a week.

Infected Bug Bite

The itsy-bitsy spider…left a big welt. It happens when harmless bacteria that normally live on your skin get pushed inside through the bug bite. "If there's a little bit of redness, it's usually just local irritation," Millin says. "But if that area grows to 2 or 3 inches, it's probably infected." Apply a topical steroid like hydrocortisone — it'll reduce the inflammation (unlike an antibiotic ointment, which won't treat an active infection that's already under the skin). See your doc if it doesn't improve.

Ouch! You Got Burned

If, say, you touched a hot grill for just a second and your skin is red, it's likely a first-degree burn that won't cause long-term damage, Millin says. Rinse for 10 minutes with cool water, and take acetaminophen for pain. A burn that blisters within an hour is probably a second-degree one; it might require medical treatment. Third-degree burns char and need urgent care.

Queasy Car Rides

That wooziness kicks in because your inner ears sense motion your eyes and body haven't detected, explains Sunil Verma, MD, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon at UC Irvine Health. Stop the car when you can and step outside to get fresh air. Once you're on the move again, look at the horizon to orient yourself. If the queasies happen on a boat, stay near the center, above deck. Going on a cruise? Book a midship cabin near water level, with a window so you can see the ocean.

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Swimmer's Ear

You got some water from the lake or ocean in your ear, and it's now swollen and oozy. "When wet, the ear canal is a perfect environment for bacteria," Verma says. Antibiotic drops should clear the infection in a day or two. A good way to head this off: Wear earplugs, or use a hair dryer set on cool to dry out your ears post-swim.

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Weird Boob Rash

The reddish rash under or between your breasts could be a yeast infection. (Yes, you can get yeast infections up top! In fact, they can develop in any fold of skin that gets moist and warm, like belly rolls.) Sweating — especially during exercise — can lead to an overgrowth of yeast that's naturally on our bodies, so don't hang out in a damp sports bra for hours after your morning walk. See a doctor for a prescription anti-yeast cream to treat the problem. To help prevent it: "Completely dry under your breasts after you shower, then put on an absorbent powder like Zeasorb," says Gohara.

Painful UTI

Severe urinary tract infections spike by 10 percent in the summer, according to a 2015 University of Iowa study. To decrease your risk of getting a UTI, drink plenty of fluids, which helps flush bacteria out of your urinary system when you pee, and try to use the loo before and after sex. Call your gyno as soon as you experience that familiar burning or painful feeling when you go to the bathroom; research has shown that when women suspect a UTI, they're right 84 percent of the time, and many docs will diagnose one over the phone, says Raymond Foster, MD, a urogynecology specialist at University of Missouri Women's and Children's Hospital in Columbia. Hello, antibiotics — goodbye, UTI.

Is That a Tick?

Pluck the sucker off using fine-tipped tweezers (if none are handy, use your fingernails) with a hard tug from the base, right next to the skin. "If you pull from the top of the tick, its head might stay stuck," Millin says. No big worries if that happens, though: The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is carried inside the tick's body, and you generally get it only when the critter feeds on you for 24 to 48 hours. If you can't get the head out and your skin becomes irritated, go to a doc. Also see an MD if there's a rash around the bite, you feel tired or nauseous, or you have flu-like symptoms.


1. Calm poison ivy itch with oats.

Mix them with water into a paste, and apply it to the affected spots for 10 to 20 minutes; or add a cup of oats to a warm bath and soak for five to 10 minutes.

2. Ease tummy drama with mint tea.

Studies have found that peppermint oil can help relieve gastro problems; peppermint tea is also believed to be soothing. But mint can worsen heartburn, so avoid if you have acid reflux.

3. Cool a painful sunburn with Greek yogurt.

"You can use it as a soothing mask," says Gohara. Slather the plain kind onto the sunburned area, and wipe off after five to 10 minutes. And next time, don't forget to wear a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher and reapply every two hours. "I usually recommend a mineral sunscreen with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to give you a physical barrier," Gohara says.

4. Chew sugar-free gum to keep your ears unclogged.

When you're flying, chew a stick as the plane takes off and again when it's descending. The changes in altitude can leave you with that annoying underwater feeling, but chomping on gum helps relieve the pressure.

5. Put dry green tea bags on bug bites.

Toss a few into the freezer, and use them as cold compresses. The antioxidants in the tea may help decrease inflammation in skin, Gohara says.

Additional Sources: Carlos A. Charles, MD, founder and director of Derma Di Colore; Richard J. Ingebretsen, MD, PhD, adjunct professor, University of Utah; Lauren Ploch, MD, dermatologist

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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