Category Archives: Diseases, Injuries, and Dying

a cruise ship and a small tug boat in a mountainside port

How to stop motion sickness and enjoy a cruise to Alaska

A comment prompted this  post to follow up my recent post about cruising

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation

The conversation went like this:

Rhonda Gales (@RhondaGales) blogger at Mother 2 Mother 

Your photos are great! I want to do a cruise to Alaska next year, but I’m a little leery. The last cruise that I took, I was sea sick the entire cruise. Any advice on how to avoid it this time, and thanks for sharing on Sunday’s Best.

Dr. Aletha

Thanks Rhonda we’ve also cruised to Alaska, it was beautiful. You might look for a facility offering desensitization training for motion sickness. Otherwise drugs work but can cause unpleasant side effects. Talk to your doctor.


Thanks for your advice. Would love to see pictures of your Alaska Cruise. This post was quite popular with my readers.

white and yellow roller coaster

Photo by Min An on

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is the unpleasant sensation of motion, either with or without motion actually occurring. Those of us prone to it wonder why some people seek out experiences  like roller coasters.  Symptoms include

  • sweating
  • nausea with or without vomiting
  • dizziness
  • imbalance
  • general unwell feeling

Fear of motion sickness causes people to forgo activities like airplane travel, boating, amusement park rides, and car trips. But sometimes these activities are unavoidable or people just want to enjoy them.


Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage



How to stop motion sickness and enjoy a cruise to



Preventing motion sickness

If you don’t want to completely forgo activities that might cause motion sickness, manipulating the situation to minimize or change the motion can help.

Sitting toward the front of a vehicle and facing forward will help.

  • Airplanes- sit over the wings
  • Boat- sit level with the water facing the waves
  • Bus/Van/Car- nearest the front
  • Train- lowest level

Use your eyes

  • Don’t read
  • Focus on the horizon if possible.
  • Keep eyes closed (especially if not able to see the horizon) and/or wear sunglasses.

Maintain general wellness

  • Be rested, sleep if possible
  • Stay hydrated, eat lightly
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Keep the environment  well ventilated, avoid strong smells
  • Listen to soothing music
a seaplane with a cruise ship in the background

No roads lead into Juneau, the capital of Alaska , so people there depend on boats and airplanes.

Using medications for motion sickness

One option is to use medication, either for prevention or to treat the symptoms once they occur (not as effective.)

Prevention- using the patch

There are herbal patches  but this one is  prescription only, and most likely to be effective.

Transdermal Scopolamine patch (Transderm-Scop)

  1. Apply behind one ear at least 4 hours before travel
  2. Replace patch every 72 hours


man and woman standing next to a helicopter on a glacier

When our cruise ship stopped at Juneau, we took a helicopter ride over a glacier-and then landed on it.





Other prescription medication

Promethazine (Phenergan) for nausea and vomiting

woman walking over icy terrain near a mountain

exploring the surface of a glacier




Available OTC- over the counter

(These affiliate links are for information only and are not a recommendation to use unless advised by your personal physician.)





a village by the shore flanked by mountains, Alaska

Sailing through Alaska’s Inside Passage, we were never far from breathtaking scenery.

Habituation and Desensitization

The more I travel , the less likely I am to suffer motion sickness without using drugs.  I use the tips above- I don’t read in the car, I sit in the front of a bus. If an airplane encounters turbulence, I lean back, close my eyes, and direct the cool air toward me. I have gradually become habituated to motion, although I still do not ride roller coasters.

There are programs available to desensitize people to motion; the military uses these since pilots and sailors will constantly be exposed to motion and must be able to function.

A former NASA flight surgeon  and fighter pilot developed such a method, naming  it after himself. Dr. Sam Puma developed the Puma Method. 

“The PUMA METHOD consists of a series of simple yet very effective warm-up and conditioning exercises.

These exercises raise your tolerance level to a variety of motion sickness producing activities such as reading in a moving vehicle, riding in a small boat or cruise ship, or flying in an airplane. This process is called habituation.

The exercises use your body’s own habituation mechanism to prevent motion sickness. You don’t need any drugs, so there are no negative side effects.”

(quote from the website)

(This is an affiliate link to  the product. Otherwise, I have no personal, professional, or financial connection to Dr. Puma or the Puma Method.)





a street in Ketchikan Alaska with a sign-The Salmon Capital of the World

Fortunately for us, we love to eat salmon.

Motion Sickness Treatment Makes Waves

This article from Scientific American explains how NASA and the U.S. Navy are finding new ways to help everyone overcome motion sickness.

“Researchers  and those who work with pilots and the military’s most frequent flyers, are especially keen to find better ways to treat motion sickness. And the many civilians who face nausea in cars, planes, boats or even the tamest amusement park rides would welcome a cure without the common side effects of current medications, such as sleepiness, or the questionable efficacy of alternative treatments, such as pressure bracelets.

The path to those ends remains bumpy and filled with more than a few green faces, but new research is closer to finding the best treatments to keep both side effects and lunch down.”


The food as well as the dining service was always excellent, and one of our favorite parts of the cruise.



If you didn’t visit it already, you may want to read my previous post-

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation



Travel comments please

Please share your cruise experiences, good or bad.  How have you coped with motion sickness on any trip? I may share some of your insights in a future post.


boats in a harbor with a mountain in the distance




Please visit my page

Healthy and Helpful Resources


And learn how you can help

Share the HEART of health


Thanks for exploring the HEART of health on a cruise ship with me. Please share this post and follow Watercress Words.

Dr. Aletha 

woman standing by pink flowers

At our final stop , Victoria, Vancouver Island, touring Butchart Gardens. Yes, an Alaskan cruise stops in Canada.

The word "Read" written in black paint on a colorful watercolor washed background.

Sharing book reviews from Net Galley

Net Galley helps readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences. If you are a librarian, bookseller, educator, reviewer, blogger or in the media, you can join for free.

I enjoy reading and sharing what I read with my blog followers, so joining Net Galley helps me accomplish both. I try to find books with a health/medical theme although occasionally I will pick something just for fun. But I find that almost any story portrays some  health related issues since it’s a universal concern.


Here are two stories, both memoirs, but vastly different. One is a private personal story, the other a public  personal story.

The Best of Us

A Memoir

by Joyce Maynard

Ms. Maynard’s story opened with a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers. Equally sad was her telling of a complicated  and ultimately failed adoption attempt.

Finally she and we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As Ms. Maynard  writes,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed. You may read an excerpt at this link

The Best of Us-Chapter 1

Tears of Salt

A Doctor’s Story

by Pietro Bartolo; Lidia Tilotta

Dr. Pietro Bartolo practices medicine on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, known for its friendly people, sunny skies, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters famous for fishing, seems an idyllic place to live, work, and visit.

But for the past 20 years, Dr.Bartolo has cared for not just residents and tourists, but for hundreds of refugees- people who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean from northern Africa, fleeing poverty and political unrest. The lucky ones land on shore injured and sick. The unlucky ones wash ashore dead, having died en route or drowning after falling from a capsized or wrecked boat, sometimes only a few feet from shore.

In this memoir, Dr. Bartolo shares the stories of many of these people, giving them the names and faces that we don’t see watching news stories about the refugee crisis. He also shares his own life story of growing up on the island, leaving for medical school, and returning to raise a family and to practice medicine.

Dr. Bartolo’s story was also told in the documentary film FIRE AT SEA



He never expected to become the front-line help for hundreds of desperate people. With no specific training on how to manage an avalanche of desperate, sick, and injured refugees, and with little resources, he manages to put together a system for triaging, evaluating, and treating these people, then sending them on for more advanced medical care or to immigration centers in Europe.

For the less fortunate, he serves as medical examiner, to determine the cause of death for those who do not make it to Lampedusa alive; sometimes taking body parts to extract DNA to identify them, so families can be notified. He states he has never grown comfortable to this aspect of his job.

As a physician myself, I marvel at Dr. Bartolo’s caring and commitment to people who will never be able to repay him for his sacrifice. He approaches his work as a mission of mercy, and treats every person with the utmost respect, no matter their circumstance. Some of the people he treats become almost like family; he has even tried to adopt a couple of orphaned children but cannot due to legalities.

Dr. Bartolo’s story reads like a conversation. I think you will like him, and admire him for his dedication and selfless service.  His life should encourage all of us to consider what we can each do to lessen someone else’s suffering.



Another book review from Net Galley is at this link-

COURAGE for the UNKNOWN SEASON- a review


I also review books for Tyndale Blog Network.  for whom I reviewed FIRE ROAD,   also on Net Galley. Here is the link to that review-

Love conquers fear-a memoir of hope

I received a free digital copy of these books (FIRE ROAD was a paper copy) in return for posting a frank review on my blog and/or social media.



Get books here

Check your local library or book stores for these books, or consider these affiliate links, through which purchases help support this blog. Bestsellers

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Amazon and Kindle Books

a plate of food-fish fillet, green beans

How to manage food allergy with confidence

One way I explore the “heart of health” is attending CME -continuing medical education- conferences. All physicians do, to stay current on medical information and maintain licensure and board certification.

One of the most informative lectures I heard recently was about food allergy, a topic often discussed in the lay literature and media. Much of that discussion is based on personal experiences and opinions which, while interesting, may not be scientifically valid.

I welcomed the chance to hear from an expert to help me counsel my patients. I also have a personal interest since my grandson has food allergies; when he visits me, I have to be careful not to feed him foods he may react to.

The speaker, Kirsten Bennett, Ph.D is a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in counselling patients with food allergies. She presented data from research studies as well as from her clinical practice, and I’m sharing some of what she said with you.

How to manage food allergy with

What is food allergy?

You may assume that any symptom due to eating a food is an allergy but there are many ways food can make us sick, including allergy, intolerance, toxic effects, and infection.

Dr. Bennett explained that the difference between food allergy and food intolerance. (The other two will not be discussed here)

Allergy– immune mediated, that is it involves the immune system with the production of antibodies after exposure to a food; celiac disease is due to food allergy.

Intolerance– does not involve the immune system, no antibodies are produced; this occurs in lactose intolerance.

Some foods such as wheat and milk can cause both allergy and intolerance.

cup of milk, plate of bread

Mil and wheat can cause allergy and intolerance.

So how do you know the difference? You can’t, without an appropriate medical evaluation, so it is important to see a physician if you suspect food allergy.

Probably up to 10% of the population have true food allergy, but as many as 50-90% of people who believe they have food allergy may not. An accurate diagnosis is important so the condition can be managed properly when appropriate, but not needlessly.

What causes food allergy?

The BIG 8 cause 90% of food allergy. These are

  1. Milk
  2. egg
  3. peanut
  4. fish
  5. shellfish
  6. soy
  7. wheat
  8. tree nut

Symptoms of food allergy

Almost any symptom can occur with allergy but the most common are

  • Rash with or without itching
  • Swelling of the face, lips, eyes
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Nasal drainage and/or congestion
  • Hoarse voice
  • Cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Low blood pressure, fast heart beat
  • Feeling of “impending doom”

How to diagnose food allergy

Although blood and skin testing may be needed, the history is the first and most important step to identify food allergy. The evaluation may start with the answers to these 9 questions-

  • What are the symptoms?
  • What food was eaten that may have caused the symptoms and was it eaten before?
  • How much of the food was eaten?
  • Was the suspect food cooked or raw?
  • Has the food ever been eaten without symptoms?
  • Was else was the person doing or ingesting at the same time, such as exercise, medications, etc.?
  • Have the symptoms occurred without eating the food?
  • How were the symptoms treated and how long did they last?

What You Need to Know About Diagnostic Allergy Testing

by David Stukus, MD,Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Section of Allergy/Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus Ohio.

Goals in  managing food allergies

Allow the child (or adult) to live as normal a life as possible while avoiding foods that might cause allergic symptoms.

The fear of a serious food allergic reaction can cause a family to forgo normal activities and keep a child isolated. Dr. Bennett suggested these tactics to minimize food allergy anxiety.

Family of 4 sitting at a dining table.

Read food  labels carefully to avoid inadvertently eating foods that cause allergy.

At home 

  • Cook as a family ; Learn how to cook meat and other protein foods
  • Take children grocery shopping and engage them in food selection
  • Use at least 3 elements of the plate model for meal planning
  • Gather together and celebrate food and eating together
  • Practice manners and table talk
  • Make the home kitchen a safe sanctuary
  • Enjoy the food journey


  • Take foods along that are safe
  • Identify possible allergy risks in travel itinerary -Restaurants

At school 

  • What does the school staff and administration know about food allergies?
  • Start a conversation Provide reference materials or community resources
  • Create a plan for inclusion
  • Partner with the school
  • Universal supports for all children

Find more Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle from Kids With Food

Be prepared for an emergency allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis

The greatest danger of any allergy is anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergic reaction which impairs breathing and heart function.

a heart monitor showing a heart tracing EKG

Minutes matter with heart emergencies

Anyone who cares for a person with food allergy needs to know what to do in case of a reaction. Schools and work places should have a plan for dealing with such emergencies.

Create and Maintain an Action Plan for school/work-

an individualized Health Care Plan  – which includes strategies for food avoidance

Create and Maintain an Emergency Plan
Food Allergy Emergency Action Plan -Include specific actions to be taken in the event of accidental or purposeful ingestion of the allergenic food

Maintain a current and back-up supply of emergency medication

Specific instruction on transport to ER/ED (emergency room) for follow up care
Emergency medications and plan need to be with child/adult

a speed limit sign with an H for hospital , 5 miles

  • in school
  • at work
  • sporting events
  • field trips

“Eating a little bit won’t hurt.” “Childhood allergies last for life.” True or false? Find out at this link.

Food Allergy Myths and Misconceptions from Food






Common-Allergen-Free Products available at Discount School Supply

(Affiliate offer- may pay a commission to this blog at no extra cost to you)


Home and food blogger Leslie offers these helpful Hostess Tips about

When Your Guest Has Severe Food Allergies 



I hope you’ve learned something about food allergy that helps you or your family and that you will share this information with friends. Feel free to leave a comment. Do you have food allergies? If so, how do you avoid reactions?

Please consider helping support this blog by using my affiliates. You’ll find links in the side bars, on the home page, and on the resource page.

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health with me again.

Dr. Aletha WATERCRESSWORDS.COM-exploring the HEART of health

Simple and effective ways to manage chronic pain -part 2 of a series

In a previous post I talked about non-drug methods to manage pain in the spine-neck and back. You may want to review it now, but reading  this one first is fine. This post will focus on other painful conditions.

While people often discover methods to relieve pain that work for them, I am focusing here on treatments that are supported in the medical literature or recommended by knowledgeable professionals. For this post, I reviewed many articles which summarized current studies.

Finding trustworthy medical information

How do doctors know what works and what doesn’t? Since medical knowledge has changed since we went to medical school , how do we know what is current information?

We read literature pertinent to our fields on a regular basis, attend conferences, and talk to other doctors. But when we need a specific question answered , we do what you do-we Google it.

shelves in a library with adjacent computers

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Library, located on the organization’s campus, in Atlanta, Georgia. The CDC collections span the field of public health. Print and electronic resources cover such topics as disease prevention, epidemiology, infectious diseases, global health, chronic diseases, environmental health, injury prevention, and occupational safety and health. The main library in Atlanta and selected branch libraries are open to the public. used courtesy CDC/ Emily Weyant; MSLIS; ORISE Fellow

One of the most frequently reviewed is PubMed listing  more than 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The service is free and anyone can use it. PubMed is a service of  the National Library of Medicine, the largest biomedical library in the world ,located in Bethesda, Maryland,

Another major reference is the Cochrane Library, a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties ; a fee is charged to use this service.

Basic points about complementary treatments for pain management

We should use medication and surgery when appropriate, but when these can’t be used or are not helpful, we can consider alternative methods, or what I and other doctors prefer to call complementary or integrative treatment.

This post focuses on symptom relief, not necessarily curative treatment.

Herbals and supplements are drugs and can be effective for certain conditions, but this post will discuss non-drug treatments only.

Many cases of pain improve spontaneously with no specific treatment.

Almost everything works sometimes.

There are few if any down side to any of these treatments. Used under supervision they are unlikely to have adverse side effects or result in long term complications.

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.



Migraine is more than just a bad headache; it is a disorder of the brain which causes pain as well as other common symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.  Dizziness, numbness, and  loss of vision occur less frequently.

diagram of the human brain.

The major parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, cerebellum, spinal cord, brain stem, pituitary gland, and cerebrum are labeled. I photo courtesy of Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Alan Hoofring (Illustrator)

Most people with migraine require some type of medication for relief, but non-drug treatments can supplement meds and can be helpful for prevention. Integrative treatments that work according to studies include

  • acupuncture
  • biofeedback
  • CBT-cognitive behavioral therapy
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • relaxation training
  • yoga


I mentioned fibromyalgia in my post about back and neck pain, but  include it here  since it causes pain in other body areas.

Fibromyalgia seems to be a disorder of nerves which makes them super sensitive, leading to diffuse muscle and joint pain that can become disabling. Complementary treatments recommended include

  • Mind-body-guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, mindfulness meditation , relaxation
  • Tai chi
  • Hydrotherapy, balneotherapy

Osteoarthritis of the knees (degenerative arthritis)

It is likely that arthritis in other joints responds to these therapies but there aren’t enough large studies to confirm.

  • Acupuncture,
  • tai chi
  • walking and  strengthening exercises
  • Balneotherapy-bathing in hot water mineral baths
people in a gym exercising

photo courtesy Amanda Mills,, Public Health Image Library





Tessa Frank  discusses how she became frustrated when increasing doses of opioids didn’t relieve her chronic pain, and what she’s doing now to manage her pain.

How I’m Managing My Chronic Pain Without Opioids

“While I no longer use opioids, I do use non-opioid prescription medications and a spinal cord stimulator to provide pain relief for my CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain condition.

I’m also hyperaware of how stress triggers my increased feelings of pain, so to mitigate stress, I personally have found relief in meditation, relaxation and yoga among other approaches.” (excerpt)





If you didn’t read it earlier, here’s a link to the previous post about treating pain, along with a brief excerpt.

Surprising effective ways to relieve back pain

“Pain in the spine results from many medical conditions, ranging from minor to life threatening. Most cases are due to routine or excessive physical activity or a minor injury causing strain of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and will go away with no or minimal intervention in less than 12 weeks.”



The affiliate product links in this post are for illustration and information only, and do not imply endorsement.

I am grateful when you like and share this post on social media.

Please consider helping support this blog by using my affiliates. You’ll find links in the side bars, on the home page, and on the resource page.

In a future post I will talk about  non-drug treatments for other conditions.

always exploring the HEART of health with you.

                       Dr. Aletha  WATERCRESSWORDS.COM-exploring the HEART of health