DON’T MAKE SICKNESS THE SOUVENIR FROM YOUR NEXT VACATION
BY ROBYN PASSANTE
If vacations are supposed to be a healthy way to relax, recharge and enhance our lives through new experiences, then why do so many people come home sick? The phenomenon of people falling ill just after vacation isn’t a myth: A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that up to 21 percent of airline passengers report catching a cold within a week of traveling.
While it’s easy for germophobes to blame the close confines of an airplane or their fellow travelers for the spread of bugs and viruses, there are ways we can stay healthy while traveling. Because ending your vacation with an illness is not the kind of souvenir anyone wants to bring home.
Keep up your routine
“I think when people travel, they get out of their normal routines — not sleeping the way they normally sleep, not eating the way they normally eat,” said Dr. Laura Knobel, a family physician in Bluffton. One of the best ways to stave off illness, Knobel said, is to maintain your regular eating, sleeping and exercise habits while on your trip.
Keep your hands clean
“Make sure you’re washing your hands constantly,” Knobel said. And in between washings, be mindful of what you’re touching. Can you walk up the stairs without using the handrail? Do you need to push open the restroom door with your hands, or could you use your elbow?
Exercise portion control
“When people are traveling,” Knobel said, “they want to sample the cuisines of the areas that they’re in. But you can monitor your portion sizes.” Opt for lunch-sized portions and small-plate specials to try different foods while keeping your overall calorie intake in check.
Your body needs to be properly hydrated to stay healthy, so keep bottled water in hand when traveling. Drink well ahead of and during the flight, avoiding alcohol that will sack your hydration efforts. And if you’re traveling to a foreign country where fresh water is a concern, be sure to avoid ice in drinks and use bottled water for brushing your teeth.
Protect your skin
“Remember to bring your sunscreen, particularly if you’re going to an area with more sun than you’re used to,” Knobel said. “But avoid sunscreens that have PABA in them, which can cause sun poisoning for some people.” Also, bring bug spray with DEET if you’re headed to areas where mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika virus have been found.
Carry medications with you
Don’t check prescription medications and other medical necessities with your luggage when flying. “That can become a major issue if your luggage gets lost or your flight is delayed,” Knobel said.
Traveling often involves a lot of sitting, which can be dangerous, Knobel said. “On planes, when blood gets to your feet, that blood sits in the bottom of your feet and because it’s not moving as well, it can form clots,” she said. If possible, get up and move every so often. If you can’t, then spend some time flexing and extending your feet, making circles in the air with them. “Just by contracting the muscles in your legs, you’re going to pump that blood back up to your heart.”
Know your own stressors
If the end of a vacation fills you with anxiety over the piles of laundry and email catch-up session you’ll have to face, book your vacation in a way that banks an extra day at home before returning to your regular routine.
“And never take the last flight of the day,” Knobel said, “because if you miss that flight, you’re stuck where you are.”