If you’ve got a trip coming up, whether it’s for work or fun, the last thing you want is to get sick while you’re away from home. But traveling is one of the fastest ways to get exposed to a whole variety of bugs including colds and the flu. A little bit of time planning your healthy travel strategy can go a long way toward making your trip more enjoyable.
As a health advocate and public speaker, I spend too much time in airports and on planes to risk getting sick. Here are some of my strategies to stay healthy while traveling.
• Think before you touch – Germs are everywhere in an airport and some of the nastiest ones stay active on objects long after the sick person deposited them there. So before you touch anything, think about who might have touched it before you. Avoid putting your bare hands on things like door knobs, faucets, paper towel dispensers, and escalator hand rails. Some touches are unavoidable. So be alert to what you are touching and make sure you keep your hands away from your face until you can wash up or use sanitizer.
• Bring your own – Shared items mean shared germs. So bring your own items whenever possible. I’m talking about things like a pillow and blanket if you’re going to try to sleep on the plane, as well as your own food. You never know who packaged that sandwich, or if the flight attendant handing items to you is fighting a cold or something worse. Also stay away from airplane magazines and anything else in the seat pocket. Don’t even touch the pocket if you can help it!
• Protect yourself – I think hand sanitizer wipes are one of the best inventions ever. Yes, I said wipes, not gel. Wipes last longer and are easier to use on things other than your hands. Start with your chair in the waiting room and wipe down every surface you have to touch, including door handles and sink faucets. You may go through a bunch of wipes, but your health is worth it! My favorites are Herban Essentials Towelettes. They come in several fragrances and are individually wrapped so they are easy to carry in your purse. Bring some extras – I always have people ask if they can have one.
If you know your immune system is weak or you are worried about getting sick, pick up a mask at the drug store and wear it at the airport and on the plane. This is especially important now while the flu bug is so active. Flu germs can travel up to six feet through the air when someone sneezes or coughs. So keep your distance if possible, and if you are sick, be sure to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. You can also boost your immune system by taking vitamin C before you travel. I like the Emergen-C powder. It comes in a single serving pouch that you pour into your bottle of water.
And speaking of water, make sure you drink enough water while traveling to stay well hydrated. Pick up a bottle of water as soon as you clear the security checkpoint and start drinking. As long as you buy it inside the gate area, you can take an open bottle on the plane. You can also get water on the plane from the flight attendant. But if bring your own you won’t have to wait until everyone is settled and drink service begins.
• Guard your space – Whether you are in the airport or on the plane, if you find yourself near someone who is sick – coughing, sneezing, nose running, etc. – try to move away. If you are seated right next to this person, ask the flight attendant if you can have another seat. I know this sounds bad, but I’ve actually done it. After all, it’s up to me to protect my health.
You may think you’re home free once your plane lands. But there are just as many germs waiting for you at your destination airport. So be just as careful getting off the plane as you were getting on. Have your wipes ready to wipe down door handles heading into the bathroom. And don’t forget to wipe down the handles on your luggage as soon as it comes off the conveyor.
There is no fool proof way to stay healthy. Despite my best efforts I caught both the stomach and respiratory flu this season. But you can do a lot to protect your health while traveling by consciously working to be as germ-free as possible. Be your own best advocate by planning ahead and being prepared while you are away from home.