Health Tips for Holiday Travelers

Many people will be heading out for holiday travel this weekend, and more than a few will end up with an illness, courtesy of a fellow traveler. Airports, planes, buses, trains, even subways and taxis…they all have the potential to harbor germs and bacteria. How do you protect yourself? Here are a few tips to keep you healthy so you can enjoy your time away:

Before you leave:

  • Power up your immune system before your trip with vitamin C and probiotics. While there isn’t scientific proof that these can protect you, many frequent travelers swear by them, and they certainly won’t hurt!
  • You’re too late for this one if you are traveling abroad this weekend, but there may be an immunization or series of immunizations recommended for your destination. It’s best to visit a health clinic four to six weeks prior to traveling to make sure you have enough time for any treatments you may require.

While you are en route:

  • Carry disinfectant wipes and use them liberally! Tray tables, armrests, and window shades are all germ-bearing surfaces that rarely get cleaned between flights, bus, or train rides. Wipe everything down before you touch it. Keep the wipes handy for later too, to use when traveling on subways, buses, or taxis.
  • Bring your own pillow and blanket for longer trips. Airline blankets and pillows are sometimes reused from trip to trip with no sanitation measures.
  • Bring nasal spray to keep your nose moist, and Vaseline or Neosporin to create a barrier between your membranes and bacteria. While you are in your seat, keep the overhead air pointed downward in front of you to push away any germs floating around.
  • It’s hard to tell what’s been in the backseat pocket in front of you. Magazines, yes… but also used tissues, dirty diapers, and any number of germ-carrying objects. Avoid using or touching the pocket if at all possible! Use your carry-on bag for storage.

While you are there:

  • Wash your hands regularly! This might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked as the single most important thing we can do to protect against illness. Be thorough; scrub with soap for at least 30 seconds and rinse with hot water. While washing is the best method, carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer as well, so if you are in a place short of facilities, you have a backup method to fight germs.
  • Protect your gut! When you are traveling, it is tempting to check out the local flavors, but if your stomach is not accustomed to different spices and preparation methods, you could be in for some gastrointestinal distress. Introduce new flavors in small amounts, or choose familiar foods to be safe. Also, avoid raw fruits and veggies (unless you are able to wash them yourself), salad bars, and buffets that can be easily cross-contaminated.
  • Hydration is vitally important while you are traveling, but bottled water is your best choice to avoid bacteria or other contaminants found in tap water.
  • Make time for rest! You may be sacrificing your health in an effort to pack as much into your trip as possible. Give yourself ample time to sleep and recharge each night. On really active days, you might even want to schedule a short nap!
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Steer clear of other individuals who are exhibiting signs of illness, such as sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, or other ailments.

No protection is 100% foolproof, but with a little vigilance, you can better protect yourself against illness and enjoy your holiday travels!