The stranger you sit next to this holiday season for your flight home might be perfectly healthy, but the surfaces that surround you both can be teeming with cold and flu viruses.
Without a doubt, the germs lurking on every plane and train and in every station and airport can wreak havoc on your holiday travel plans. At best, you wind up with a minor cold that goes away in a few days. Unfortunately, many of us have experienced much worse: puking toddlers or lost luggage with important prescription medications inside.
Before you try to convince everyone else to come to your house instead this season, consider these important tips from the medical experts at Bon Secours to help you stay healthy while you travel.
Pack some immunity.
Now is the perfect time to get your flu shot. Call your health provider to get one or ask the pharmacist at your local grocery store. Just make sure you get vaccinated at least four to five days in advance of your travel plans. For the strongest immunity against influenza, get a flu shot at least two weeks before you travel.
Plan for prescriptions.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get your prescriptions filled. An insurance issue or shortage could leave you without your medication. You should also take enough medication with you if your trip ends up lasting longer than expected.
“You’re going to save yourself so many problems if you do some planning,” said Carol Carson, PharmD, BCPS, a clinical pharmacy specialist for Bon Secours Hampton Roads.
Important medications are less likely to get misplaced if you keep them with you instead of tucked away in your luggage. They’ll also be readily available no matter where you are when you need them, Carson said. Additionally, baggage storage areas can get very hot or cold, creating less than ideal storage conditions.
Always declare medications when you go through security stations. Check airline and security policies before you start packing. Remember to keep your prescriptions in their original containers; it’s a requirement in some states.
And, make a copy of all your prescriptions and a detailed list of their strength, dosage and frequency. Be sure to include the name of your prescribing physician and pharmacist. Keep all this information with you.
“If you need medical attention for any reason when you’re traveling, a list helps prevent someone giving you a medication that might interact with one of your prescriptions,” Carson said.
Wipe. Sanitize. Repeat.
As you settle into your seat for a long flight or train ride, take the time to clean the arm rest and tray table in front of you with some sanitizing wipes. You can’t stop the person in the row behind you from sneezing, but you can try to reduce the germs surrounding your seat.
If you’re really worried about getting sick – maybe you have a compromised immune system – go ahead and wear a mask.
Stand up and stretch.
“When it’s allowed, take time to stand up from your seat and stretch – especially if it’s a long flight or ride,” said Randall Fedro, MD, a family practice physician at Monarch Medical Associates. Sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for the body. For some, it can lead to dangerous blood clots.
Moving the legs while you sit can help, too, Fedro said. Try flexing and pointing your feet to exercise your calves. Some people also use the metal bar under the seat that’s in front of them to do calf raises.
Stay well rested and hydrated.
Just like when you are at home, it’s important to get enough rest every night when you’re traveling and to drink plenty of water. Your immune system can weaken if you’re exhausted and dehydrated.
“Staying hydrated is super important,” Fedro said. “Limit your alcohol intake, too.”
If you’re heading to a different time zone, make sure you get enough shuteye while you adjust to your destination and when you return home.
“Many people lose too much sleep when they travel,” Fedro said. “It can set you up for an infection.”
Work in your workouts.
Exercise is an excellent way to burn off some holiday calories and the stress that comes with holiday traveling.
“Exercise will also help keep your immune system in high alert,” Fedro said.
Think ahead of where you’re going to be and figure out how you can build in some time to exercise. Walking is one of the easiest ways to exercise when you’re not home. You can almost always find a place to walk wherever your winter travels take you.
Another option is to try a local gym. Many gyms allow non-members to come in and work out for a nominal fee. Look for a place that offers the kind of classes you enjoy or the right exercise equipment.
Visit Bon Secours 24/7.
Sometimes you get sick while on vacation no matter how hard you try to prevent it. Bon Secours 24/7 allows you to reach a health provider within minutes from your phone, tablet or personal computer. Simply enroll to create an account, download our app and follow the instructions to speak with a Bon Secours medical provider.
Bon Secours 24/7 helps patients with a range of medical conditions, from respiratory infections and bronchitis to sprains and strains. The app works wherever your holiday travel takes you within the United States.