Spring Break Safety Guide

Sun Sense

Sunshine feels great and might make you look great but isn’t harmless.  We all know someone who ruined a vacay by getting so burned on the first day they had to alter plans for the rest of the week.  If you plan on spending time outdoors during spring break, you need to know how to best protect yourself.

  • Protect Your Skin:  Choose a sunscreen that has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30.  Apply a liberal amount about 30 minutes before you go out to give your skin some time to absorb the protective ingredients.  Be sure to hit those spots you might not think about (the tops of your feet, tips of your ears, etc.) and reapply every 30 minutes or more frequently if you perspire or swim.
  • Protect Your Eyes:  Eyes are harmed by the same kind of rays that cause a sunburn and long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to impaired vision or vision loss.  Wearing a great pair of sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays is helpful.  And wraparound sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays are a great choice to stop harmful rays from sneaking around the top, bottom, and sides of the glasses.
  • And finally, if you are taking medication, check with your pharmacy or health care provider before tanning.  Some medications cause severe, blistering skin reactions.  The most common culprits are sulfa drugs.
Travelers' Diarrhea

Let’s face it: diarrhea can ruin vacations.  Diarrhea can occur after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Mild diarrhea is often not a serious problem and is often self-limiting.  But diarrhea with blood in it and a high fever can indicate a more serious bacterial infection and may need medical attention. To prevent diarrhea while on spring break

  • Avoid raw fruits and vegetables that you cannot peel yourself.
  • Drink only bottled water and drinks unless you are in a restaurant that has purified water.
  • Avoid ice in your drinks.  Ice is often kept in unsanitary conditions or contaminated when handled by employees.

If you get diarrhea while on spring break:

  • Start with a clear liquid diet by drinking boiled water that’s been cooled or soft drinks.  Then slowly add food to your diet.
  • Take Pepto-Bismol™.  This may also be used to prevent diarrhea.  Imodium™ and Lomodil™ will slow down diarrhea but they also keep bacteria in your intestines and may make your symptoms worse.  Use very cautiously as advised by your doctor. 
  • Before traveling, ask your health care provider about prescription medications you may be able to bring on your travels to combat diarrhea that is caused by bacteria.

Diarrhea can be caused by parasites.  This is usually a milder diarrhea that can persist on and off for months.  See a health care provider if diarrhea persists after spring break.

Road Trip!

Before you pack the cooler between the suitcases and hit the road, doing just a few pre-roadtrip tasks may keep you safer down the road.  First, ask a mechanic to check your car’s fluid levels, belts, hoses, and tires.  Do you have a spare tire?  Is it easy to access?  Become familiar with your planned route.  Toll roads?  Road construction?  Detours? Know where you are going and how you will get there.  By taking a few minutes before setting out, you are less likely to be sitting by the roadside for hours.  Here are a few other tips for safety on the road:

  • Keep your gas tank full, seat belts buckled, doors locked, and windows up.
  • Try to stay on main roads and highways.
  • Pack a flashlight, first aid kit, a cell phone charger that works in your vehicle, and a tire pressure gauge.
  • When you stop for breaks, go to the restroom together. Be sure to lock your vehicle when you’re not in it.

Even the best mechanics can’t predict future breakdowns and the most dependable cars pick the worst times or locations to be temperamental.  If your car breaks down, pull as far to the side of the road as is safely possible and stay with your car until qualified help arrives.  Flashers help alert other drivers to slow down or switch lanes, so use them.  If you have to walk to find help, get gas, etc., don't do it alone, if possible.

Movin’ In…

You just checked into your hotel room when you realize you left your cell phone in the car.  Your room key is buried under a mountain of luggage, beach toys and junk food so you prop open the door, dash down the stairs, grope under the seat, and race back to your room...to find that someone has relieved you of the burden of hauling your belongings home at the end of your trip.  Wherever you go, if you’re a tourist you’re vulnerable.  And because you’re on spring break you tend to let down your guard taking more chances than you would at home.  If you’re staying at a hotel during spring break, keep the following safety pointers in mind:

  • Stash valuables in the hotel safe.  Or better yet, leave them at home.
  • Keep your doors locked (including the one to the balcony) and the chain on the door.
  • Don’t leave key cards lying around when you’re at the beach, bar or pool.
  • Don’t put the sign on the door for the maid to clean up.  If your room has been made up before you go out, hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
  • Whenever you do go out, tell your travel buddies about your plans. Use your phone to help track each other, especially if you’re drinking alcohol. 

If you were at home, you would lock your doors, be cautious around people you don’t know, and try not to take unnecessary chances.  If you remember to take the same precautions when you go on spring break, your greatest dilemma will be running out of sunscreen before the sun goes down.

Thinking of Drinking on Spring Break?  Factors that Affect Your Blood Alcohol Level
  • Body Size—The bigger the person, the more blood volume, the more dilute the alcohol.  Smaller people have less blood volume and will feel alcohol’s effects more than a larger person drinking the same amount. 
  • How fast you drink—Your liver, no matter your body size, can metabolize approximately one standard drink per hour.  Consuming more than one drink per hour causes alcohol to accumulate in your body.
  • Food--Food delays the passage of alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine, so alcohol is absorbed more slowly with food in the stomach. Food with fat and/or protein are best.  No matter how full your stomach, if you drink too much you will still get drunk.
  • Beverage Type—A more concentrated drink (a shot of liquor) affects you faster than a diluted source (a beer) and the higher the concentration of alcohol, the faster the absorption rate (Long Island Iced Tea or Adios MF).  One or two standard drinks each hour will allow for that fun buzz without the risk of sloppy, pukey drunk.
  • Gender—Women generally have a higher proportion of body fat and lower amounts of body water than men.  With less body water to dilute the alcohol, an ounce of alcohol will be more concentrated in a woman’s blood. Men also have more alcohol dehydrogenase, an alcohol-metabolizing enzyme.
  • Drinking history and tolerance—long-term, heavy drinking can result in an increased tolerance (it takes more alcohol to feel the buzz).  Unfortunately, tolerance is an early warning sign that physical dependence on alcohol may be developing.
  • Physical Health and Emotional State—factors such as how much sleep a person had the night before, mood, personality, and drinking desires and expectations can affect how a person will handle alcohol. 
  • Medication—certain medications may affect the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol or increase the effect of alcohol.
Eat Cheap and Healthy during Spring Break

Students looking to save a few bucks while on spring break should consider food choices that are inexpensive and healthy.

  • Book a hotel room that includes a mini-fridge and microwave. Stock the fridge with groceries such as milk, juice, fruit, cut-up veggies, cheese, yogurt, bottled water, etc.   Look for healthy microwavable foods that are easy to prepare.  
  • Breakfast is a great way to fuel your body for the day.  Look for free breakfast buffets that allow you to load up on calories for the day.  Good breakfast buffet choices:  eggs, whole wheat bagels with peanut butter, milk, juice, and breakfast burrito.
  • And speaking of breakfast...try eating breakfast foods for lunch!  Buy cereal that can be enjoyed with milk or tossed into yogurt (like Kellogg’s Smart Start or General Mills’ Multi-Grain Cheerios).
  • Consider eating like you did in preschool:  PB&J sandwiches, bananas, graham crackers.  None of these food items needs to be refrigerated and can be purchased inexpensively at most grocery stores.
  • Munch on healthy snack foods:  Sun Chips, baby carrots, granola mixes with raisins and nuts, pita chips, granola bars, bananas and oranges (no cleaning or cutting required!), popcorn, or yogurt.
  • If you’ve booked an all-inclusive package that includes food, the meal plan may not cover more than one or two meals each day.  Take advantage of “grab-n-go” foods that can be taken back to your room to be eaten later.

Enjoy your spring break!