BY DR LYDIA THURTON
A trip to my father’s homeland of Trinidad and Tobago is always a beautiful thing. A culturally rich country with delicious food – it’s a real treat to spend time in sweet T&T. Knowing that many of our readers are island born I thought it fitting to discuss some health and safety advice from my travels.
Everyone is going crazy over the Zika virus. Some loved ones did get infected while I was there. No one became deathly ill, four out of five people feel nothing. However, due to the birth defect issue women of child bearing age do need to be mindful of travelling to the Caribbean. Use sexual protection as the virus can be transmitted through intercourse and to avoid unintended pregnancy. Mosquito nets and Deet bug spray are your best bets. Those mosquito coils are effective but the airborne chemical is highly toxic. Avoid the coils in confined spaces.
Wear your seatbelt! Driving in the islands is not exactly a walk in the park. Speeding, alcohol use, narrow, poorly kept roads make for treacherous drives. That being said I can see that Trinidad is making some changes to promote road safety, like lowering the speed limits. Nevertheless, rent a sturdy car that you feel comfortable driving. Having GPS was also a real help. Let’s just say asking for directions in the islands will have you looking out for a goat tied to a post past the rum shop – not the easiest directions to navigate.
Beautiful beaches abound have not turned Caribbean people into world class swimmers. Many of my family and patients are not comfortable swimming long distances and would much prefer to bathe in the shallow waters near the shore. This winter in Barbados, my parents and aunt were dragged out in the rip current (some people would refer to it as an undertow, even though they are technically different) and they needed to be rescued. Very scary. If you are not a strong swimmer avoid beaches with no one else bathing. If you get caught in a rip current pulling you away from shore, stay as calm as you can, swim parallel to the beach and eventually you will be in a safe zone. Don’t try to swim against it. Pool floats like flutter boards and noodles are a good idea to have on hand.
I was fortunate to meet a wonderful and very successful farmer in Trinidad. While discussing his tomato yield this year he admitted that fruits and vegetables grown in Trinidad are heavily sprayed with pesticides. That is unless you are growing them in your own yard. Produce like spinach, tomatoes and hot peppers need to washed thoroughly. I wash my produce in a basin with some salt, lemon and a tiny amount of vinegar to remove residues. I let my produce soak and then rinse. It’s impossible to get rid of all pesticides. But a good wash makes a big difference. Happy travels!