Your Health: How to prevent illness while traveling

Read on for some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

While the CDC is recommending Americans curtail their travel plans this holiday season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are still choosing to get out of town to visit family and friends. If you are planning upcoming travel, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect your health. 

Many people have a tendency to catch a cold or flu after traveling. In fact, there are lots of things about traveling that leave us vulnerable to infection such as airport germs, the dry air on an airplane, lack of sleep and disrupted routine. And our current health pandemic is making travel especially challenging this year.

There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you travel.

Plan ahead.

Due to COVID-19, it’s best to drive in a private vehicle if possible. If you do fly, nonstop or direct flights are preferable so you can limit your exposure. Always keep wipes, hand sanitizer and extra masks with you. Bring your own snacks and drinks if possible to avoid additional contact with other people and surfaces. And remember to take advantage of any opportunity you can to plan outdoor entertainment and dining. 

Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.

When you’re in a crowded airport or airplane, your exposure to germs is heightened. The eyes, nose and mouth provide germs the easiest pathway into the body. Thankfully, face masks help keep us from touching our nose and mouth. If you need to rub your eyes, blow your nose or eat something with your hands, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching any of these areas in order to prevent the transfer of germs.

Practice good handwashing.

Many people believe that hot water is the key to successful hand washing, but in reality the amount of time your hands are in contact with soap has a bigger impact on cleanliness. You should be soaping your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Be sure to clean between your fingers and all the way to your wrist, and rinse with the warmest water you can tolerate.

Use caution around these surfaces.

While no public surface is completely void of germs, there are a few that are particularly germy. In the airport, avoid touching hand railings and doorknobs. When you must come into contact with one of these surfaces, use a napkin or paper towel as a barrier.

On the airplane, use a paper towel to open the bathroom door after washing your hands. If using the seat tray in front of you, clean it with a disinfectant wipe, avoid touching the surface with your hands and don’t let food touch the tray directly. Use hand sanitizer before consuming anything on an airplane.

At the hotel, disinfect the TV remote as well as any public keyboards and mouses before use. Take extra care to keep bottles and pacifiers clean if traveling with little ones.

Pack nasal spray for a flight.

The low humidity in an airplane can dry out your nasal passage and throat, making it more difficult for your body to fend off bacteria. Over-the-counter saline nasal spray can help to combat this issue. If traveling as a family, each family member should have their own nasal spray—this isn’t a product that should be shared, as it could spread germs.

Get plenty of rest.

Sleep deprivation takes a toll on your immune system and can leave you vulnerable to illness. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you are unable to get this amount of rest, try to make time for a nap during the day.

Being mindful of germs and taking steps to protect yourself can help prevent illness during and after travel. However, if you or a loved one experiences concerning symptoms while traveling, reach out to your primary care physician for advice. You can also speak with a nurse 24/7 by contacting AdventHealth Nurse Line at 913-676-7777.