Here's great reason to finally book that trip: The more vacations you go on, the longer you'll live. Hey, it's a scientific fact, according to the Framingham Heart Study. (You'll also sleep better, have happier relationships, and generally be more joyful if you take advantage of your allotted days off.) What you don't want is for an out-of-town mishap to derail your good time. Ahead, how to deal with...
A chipped tooth
Right. You should have put down the beer bottle before busting out your Beyoncé impression. For a small chip, use an emery board to file down sharp edges, just as you'd do to a fingernail, says Adrianne Sever, M.D., an emergency-medicine doctor at Duke University. Cracked tooth enamel can leave nerves exposed, so if you feel pain from a tiny chip, you can temporarily seal the area with — wait for it — Krazy Glue, says Jeff Golub-Evans, D.D.S., a dentist in New York City: "Use a toothpick to place a tiny drop of glue on the sore spot, then wait 20 seconds until a seal forms." (Just make sure you don't ingest any of the stuff!) For bigger chips, put broken tooth pieces in a container filled with cold milk. The sugar compounds in moo juice can keep tooth cells alive for 72 hours — long enough for you to find a dentist who can reattach your chomper.
A scorching sunburn
Thin-skinned and easily forgotten spots like the ears, scalp, and top of the feet often suffer the worst sun damage — which is why your toes are now a violent shade of red. First, take ibuprofen to help curb any inflammation. Next, hit the grocery store for some white vinegar. Dilute one teaspoon of it in a pint of cold water and, every few hours, cover the burn for 10 minutes with a washcloth dipped in that soothing solution (vinegar might also help fight off bacteria). Placing some plain yogurt or cold, wet green-tea bags on first-degree burns can also calm angry skin and offer pain relief, says Min-Wei Christine Lee, M.D., a dermatologist in Walnut Creek, Calif. More serious second-degree burns are another story. "If you have a large burn blister that is smaller than a quarter and contains blood or is painful, you can pierce it with a disinfected needle," says Jane Sadler, M.D., an internist in Garland, Texas. After it has drained completely, keep it covered with an OTC antibiotic ointment and a Band-Aid (make sure the sticky part of the bandage does not touch the blister). Follow up with a visit to your doctor when you get home.
It's hard to enjoy sailing when your head's hanging over the side of the boat. Taking slow, deep breaths of fresh air and focusing on the horizon should help, says Sever. So can nibbling on stomach-calming ginger candy or placing a drop of peppermint oil under your tongue. But your best defense is always a smart offense: Before you step aboard, avoid spicy meals and spiked drinks. Fiery foods, caffeine, and alcohol can make the symptoms of motion sickness even worse. Frequently feel queasy in boats, planes, or cars? Pack a nonprescription antinausea med such as Dramamine (it comes in a less-drowsy version), says Suzanne Shepherd, M.D., a travel-medicine expert at the University of Pennsylvania. If that doesn't work, ask your doc about a motion-sickness-fighting scopolamine patch, which is worn behind the ear.
A yeast infection
The fungus (gross!) that causes yeast infections loves to grow in warm, moist conditions (exhibit A: your damp bikini) and can take aggressive root in just a few hours. Play it safe and toss a second bathing suit or change of clothes into your pool bag and swap out your bottoms soon after a swim, advises Darria Long Gillespie, M.D., an emergency-medicine physician at Yale University. Also try adding a little garlic to your meals; early studies show it could help keep yeast at bay. If the damage is already done, kill the discomfort with an OTC antifungal cream such as miconazole. Or if you get hit with yeast infections often, bring a fungus-fighting prescription med with you. To rule out any STDs that prompt similar itchy symptoms, be sure to check with your doctor after your trip, says Sever.
A heinous hangover
Traveling can mean a perfect storm of dehydrating circumstances. "Add dry airplane air to higher altitudes with low oxygen levels, more arid climates, and jet lag, and you're set up for a serious hangover," says Gillespie. Booze can further desiccate your body, leaving you with nausea, dry mouth, and one helluva headache. Prickly pear juice can ease the first two problems, and recent research confirms that caffeine calms hangover head pain. The electrolytes in coconut water can also help restore your body's water supply. Fend off the hurt altogether by taking a milk-thistle capsule an hour before your first drink, then another every two hours until bedtime. "It helps protect your liver and may decrease the chance of a debilitating hangover," says David Kiefer, M.D., a clinical assistant professor at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. No matter what, always end a big night out with two eight-ounce glasses of water.
Beyond the Band-Aid
Here are some med-kit essentials to take along:
- Safety pins. "Nothing is smaller, easier to use, or more reliable when putting together a makeshift sling for an injured arm," says Richard O'Brien, M.D., a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians.
- Sound-reducing earplugs. Pop them in to protect your hearing when you're at a fireworks display, rock concert, or any other raucous event.
- A mini roll of duct tape. It will pull double duty as a maximum-strength bandage for you (say, if a bottle opener pierces your finger instead of the cork) and your busted-up luggage. Just be sure to layer the tape over gauze if you're applying it to your skin.
- Key nutrients. Damn that measly hotel pillow! Prevent neck pain by taking 1,000 mg of calcium and 500 mg of magnesium once daily. Both help break up muscle cramps.