individual dragging suitcase through the airport

November 2, 2016

Tips to a Healthier Travel Season

Live Healthy

Tis the season for holiday travel, and with it the potential to get sick. 

“Travel can be stressful, and even restful vacations can disrupt our usual sleeping and eating routine,” says Dr. Heidi Hillesland, an internal medicine physician with Kauai Medical Clinic. 

“In addition, travel by plane involves being in very close quarters to many people for a long duration of time, which only increases the potential for exposure to lots of germs,” Hillesland adds. 

According to Hillesland, the genetics of the germs we’re exposed to when we travel away from our own communities may be different from the germs (e.g., cold viruses) in our own community. 

“Our bodies have had less opportunity to develop immunity to the new germs and are more likely to be susceptible to illness due to them,” Hillesland explains. “Luckily, there are several things that can help prevent you from getting sick during travel.” 

Here, Hillesland provides five travel tips so that you don’t return home with an unwelcome souvenir. 

  • Keep up-to-date on your vaccinations. “The flu shot is especially important and allows your body to develop its own immune response to the flu strains that will be most common for the upcoming season,” Hillesland says. Additional vaccinations that may be right for you include the pneumonia shot, pertussis shot and the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations.
The flu shot is especially important and allows your body to develop its own immune response to the flu strains that will be most common for the upcoming season."

  • Arrange for a pre-travel consultation with a medical provider for personalized recommendations based on your travel plans. A pre-travel consultation is best done four to six weeks ahead of time.

  • Pack enough medications to last you for the time you will be away from home and some extra in case of travel delays.
     
  • Wash your hands frequently during travel. A proper hand-washing takes a full 20 seconds, which is the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. “If you are not able to wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” Hillesland recommends. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not breed drug-resistant bacteria and are very effective against most germs.”
     
  • Stay well-rested, well-hydrated and maintain a healthy diet during travel. Stick to the diet recommendations provided by your physician if you have a condition like diabetes or heart disease.