A Healthy Bet (10) – Safe Cruising

A Healthy Bet (10) – Safe Cruising

As it appeared in Ante Up Magazine – Aug. 2009

By Frank Toscano, M.D.

The last time I went on a cruise was with my wife and kids and a big-eared mouse from Orlando. It was fun but there was no casino and no poker. The most decadent thing I could find to do on board was have a hot tub fantasy involving Cinderella and Pocahontas.

This time it will be different. August 20, the Ante Up Poker Cruise sets sail from Tampa and I’m stoked. For four nights we’ll be Razzing and Triple-Drawing and Hi-Lowing and maybe even Badugiing for only $359. Geez, I can eat more than that in pasta alone. And the way I’ve been playing lately, the whole trip should cost me only a few grand.

I figured that this would be an ideal time to go over some health advice for cruising rounders so here are my suggestions for staying healthy on the high seas.

First, if you are on medications, for gosh sakes write down the names and dosages. Don’t just bring the pills. That little travel case with individual compartments for each day may be handy for you, but without a list, its contents are a mystery. Surprise, there are dozens of pills that are little and red and have a score going down the middle. Don’t force the ship’s doc to choose between pumping on your chest and taking a break to go look up your pills. Make a simple call to your doctor or pharmacist and bingo, you’ve got a list. The ship’s doc is happy. He continues CPR. You live. See, wasn’t that easy?

And while you’re on the phone with your doctor, get a copy of your EKG and a list of your medical conditions too. With a copy of your EKG and the knowledge of whether you have GERD, PUD, IBS or some other dreaded initials, it just might help the ship’s doc decide whether to give you an antacid or call for a chopper.

And speaking of gastrointestinal distress, just because food is included doesn’t mean it’s time to gorge. Your gall stones and your fickle colon haven’t gone on vacation so if you’re normally not supposed to eat fatty, greasy, fried, spicy, dairy, cheese, nuts, whatever, you don’t get to do it at sea either. Discretion – it’s more than just good advice.

What about seasickness? I’ve been seasick twice in my life and it wasn’t pretty. I prayed for death. Nevertheless, a ship as large as the Inspiration isn’t likely to rock and roll enough to bother most people. If you are particularly sensitive, ask for a cabin near the middle of the ship and ask your doctor whether something like Dramamine or a scopolamine patch might be right for you. If you get the patch, be particularly careful not to touch it and then rub your eyes. Your pupils could dilate so much that you mistake 4-4 for A-A and that could hurt more than vomiting in your shoe.

And while we’re on that subject, cruise ships are notorious for harboring the dreaded norovirus, a malady that will surely interfere with your ability to last more than one round at the final table. Mama knew best. Wash your hands. Use hot water. Hand sanitizer too.

To avoid the Mexicali bacterial version of the trots, you should be particularly careful of what you eat and drink in Cozumel. Bad bacteria can wash downstream from Pedro’s baño to the produce fields and it never quite gets washed off. Salads, uncooked fruits that can’t be peeled, even salsa can be contaminated. And don’t forget about those ice E.coli cubes floating in your soda.  Just say “No!” Thankfully, the bottled beer and straight tequila at Señor Frog’s tend to be quite safe.

I’m not really worried about swine flu. We’re going to Cozumel, not Ground Zero Mexico City. The “pandemic” seems a bit over-hyped to me. Anyway, if you are over 60 (There are still a few poker players over 60 not named Doyle, aren’t there?) you may already have some immunity from a previous flu. Otherwise, avoid large crowds, cover your nose and mouth when someone coughs, and wash your hands. And don’t worry about eating pork. You can’t get swine flu from puerco verde.

Also, don’t forget sun block. UVB protection (the SPF number) by itself is not enough. You need a physical blocker like titanium, zinc or avobenzone to give you UVA protection too. The Caribbean rays are brutal. Use moisturizer. Wear a hat.

Finally, if you anticipate having any medical problems while on board, it might be a good idea to seek out the ship’s doc in advance and let him know your history. He’s easy to identify because he’ll be wearing a crisp white uniform with his shirt unbuttoned and a Mr. T starter kit. You won’t find him in sick bay, though. He’ll be chatting up bikinied ladies on the Lido deck. What a great job! It could’ve been me.

I’m looking forward to meeting every single Ante Up Cruiser on board.  Please look me up. If I’m not at the poker tables I’ll be in the Jacuzzi on the Lido deck with Pocahontas.