Traveling anytime during the year can increase your chances of getting sick, but traveling in the heart of cold and flu season increases your risk further. It helps to take certain precautions to increase your chances of staying healthy during winter travel.
Most would agree that spending time with friends and family is worth the crowded buses or trains, overbooked flights, jet lag, public restrooms, and long periods of sitting. With just a little planning, you can reduce your risk of getting sick. As you prepare for travel, try these pre-trip tricks:
- Catch up on your sleep before you go. Sleep deprivation makes you less able to fight infection. It can also make you irritable and less resourceful when faced with the inevitable traffic jam or lost stuffed animal. If you are traveling to another time zone, try making changes to your sleep schedule 2-3 days before departure.
- Stretch and stay active. The more primed your body is for the rigors of travel, the better. If you will be staying in a hotel, look for one that has an exercise room or pool. Pack clothes and shoes that will allow you to be active while away.
- Think through your food and medication needs before you go so your travel days go smoothly. Carrying healthy snacks with you may help you avoid fatty and sugary roadside foods.
- Plan to wear a surgical mask which can protect against airborne illnesses like colds and flu.
- It’s not too late in the season to have a flu shot, and, of course, if you are traveling overseas, you may need certain vaccinations (some require more than one dose).
- Check out travel apps that provide maps of cities and subways, restaurant guides, medical resources, etc.
You don’t even have to journey very far to encounter travel challenges. On your travel days, you can ward off trouble by:
- Washing your hands regularly to avoid spreading germs. Hand sanitizer can do the job when soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your face, and sneeze or cough into a tissue or your sleeve rather than into your hands.
- Hydrating early and often. About two-thirds of our bodies are composed of water, and in order to keep all systems humming, it is recommended that we drink 64 ounces of water daily. Drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol don’t count since they deplete your body of water. It’s also best to avoid sugary, carbonated drinks.
- Fortifying your body with nourishing foods. If you haven’t brought along meals, select options such as salads, smoothies, sandwiches with lean meats, protein bars and whole grain crackers. High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables will help regulate your digestive system, which can sometimes get out of whack when your regular schedule is disrupted.
- Building in extra time for bathroom and exercise breaks, airport screening, car seat adjustments, and other needs will help minimize stress.
- Taking advantage of opportunities to move. On car trips, add a brief walk or game of tag to your restroom stops. At airports or train stations, you can walk laps, and on board, you can stroll the aisles periodically to keep your blood moving.
- Remembering that water and food in developing countries may contain bacteria, parasites or viruses. If you are not sure, drink bottled water and eat fully cooked foods served hot.
Traveling with Medical Conditions
Your child’s asthma or your wife’s diabetes should not necessarily prevent you from taking a trip. Before you set out, make sure any conditions are well-controlled. Pack all necessary medications and supplies (nebulizer, epi-pen, blood sugar measuring device, etc). Especially if you are traveling out of the country, it is helpful to have a letter from your healthcare provider that describes your condition and your treatment plan. Travel with a list of your medications (including their generic names) and doses.
Kids often experience ear pain during a plane’s takeoff and landing. Encourage them to swallow, yawn and chew gum (if old enough). It helps infants to nurse or have a bottle during these times.
Motion sickness happens when the inner ear detects motion but the eyes do not. To avoid nausea, dizziness and other symptoms, avoid traveling on an empty stomach. Eat bland foods before, but not during, travel. Avoid fatty foods. Look outside at a distant object and keep the window open for fresh air. Frequent stops may need to be factored into travel times.
Sunscreen and First-Aid Kit
Don’t leave home without your sunscreen, especially if travelling to a warm climate. Pack a first-aid kit so you are prepared for the unexpected.
It’s Easier to Be Exposed to the Flu than Ebola
The recent Ebola scare has everyone on high alert but keep in mind that the flu virus is a bigger threat. Each year thousands of Americans die from the flu, which is spread through exposure to droplets made when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes or talks.
While Ebola is a very serious virus, the U.S. has seen only 4 cases this year, which resulted in 1 death. Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or other body fluids from someone with the virus.
If you are traveling to West African countries where Ebola outbreaks are raging, special precautions are recommended.
The holiday season is a time to celebrate, but it doesn’t mean you should eat with reckless abandon or stop your exercise routine. You can enjoy the festivities and stay healthy!
Think about eating before you go to parties so you don’t over indulge when you arrive. Don’t skip meals thinking it will help you eat less since when you are famished, it is harder to make wise food choices. Choose one treat rather than sampling every option and have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume.
It may be hard to stick to your regular routine during this time of year, but rather than stopping altogether, think temporary change. Shorten your workout; even 5 or 10 minutes of activity is better than no activity. Invite a friend or family member to dance to your favorite music or go for a walk. And as always, take the steps or park far from your destination to add physical activity into the natural course of your day.
Let Us Help!
KnovaSolutions can help you prepare for a safe trip. Happy Holidays! Call us today, 800/355-0885!
The information contained in this newsletter is for general, educational purposes. It should not be considered a replacement for consultation with your healthcare provider. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.
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