‘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 Kaua‘i Medical Clinic.
“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.”
According to Hillesland, the genetics of the germs we’re exposed to when we travel may be different from the germs (e.g., cold viruses) in our home community.
“Our bodies have had less opportunity to develop immunity to these 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.”
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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 vaccines for hepatitis A and B.
Arrange for a pre-travel consultation 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 the entire time you’ll be away from home, plus some extra in case of travel delays.
Wash your hands frequently. Proper hand-washing takes a full 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Or, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. “Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not breed drug-resistant bacteria and are very effective against most germs,” Hillesland says.
Stay well-rested, well-hydrated and maintain a healthy diet during travel, especially if you have a condition like diabetes or heart disease.