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19 Tips to Avoid Air Travel Illness & Germs While Traveling

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Getting ill while traveling is no fun, yet it happens all the time.  Following these travel sickness tips could help prevent illness so you can enjoy the journey.

Tips for Preventing Travel Illness.

Airplane Germs

Airports and airplanes are petri dishes of germs from millions of travelers.  Travel in the winter means more exposure to cold and flu viruses, bacteria abounds on handrails, elevator buttons and you will undoubtedly find yourself shoeless walking where many other feet have tread at the security area.  

Give your immune system a boost before travel by regularly taking probiotics for optimal gut health and a stronger immune system. It is also helpful to increase your intake of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that has shown to help lessen susceptibility to bacteria and viruses.  Also, consider vitamin D-3 supplements and zinc, known immunity boosters that can help fortified your immune system before you travel.

Wash your hands, a lot! Frequently washing your hands, especially before you eat or touch your face, is very important.  Many germs and types of bacteria can live on handrails, elevator buttons, doorknobs and handles for hours.  Use soap, wash for at least as long as it takes you to hum the happy birthday song under your breath; and when possible use a paper towel to open the bathroom door to exit.

If washing your hands is not an option, have a few antibacterial wipes in your carry-on to keep your hands clean.

Related:  Healthy Travel Begins with Immune-Boosting Supplements

Jet Lag Drag

Traveling across several time zones can leave you exhausted and cut into the enjoyment of your trip as you struggle to adjust.  You can avoid the worst of jet lag by following a few simple guidelines.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends you stay on your home sleep schedule for trips lasting two or less days, regardless of the difference in time zones. This will minimize disrupting your internal sleep, bathroom, and eating schedule.  

For longer trips, however, you should start slowly adjusting your schedule to the time zone you will be arriving at to start your trip or vacation. At least four days before your trip begins, shift your sleeping and eating times to match the time at your destination. Though it might be difficult, stay on the new time zone schedule as much as possible and try to go to bed when it gets dark there, not back at home.

Other things that can help are:

  • Opt for an overnight flight
  • Cut back on caffeinated foods and beverages
  • Drink plenty of water and other non-sugary fluids
  • Avoid alcohol for a few days and on the plane, it is a sleep disruptor
  • Consider taking melatonin tablets to help you fall asleep once you reach your destination (1-2 mg daily)

Light can be your friend against a jet lag foe. Exposure to bright natural light can help you stay awake and regulate natural secretions of melatonin in the brain.  Exposure to light inhibits the brain from secreting melatonin, and when it becomes dark, it will trigger its release to help you fall asleep.  Seek out bright light in the evening hours when traveling west and in the morning when you are east bound. Get as much sunshine as you can when you arrive at your destination to help you stay awake and adjust to a new sleep time.

Don’t DVT

DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in a vein deep within a muscle, usually your calf or thigh.  Prolonged sitting causes DVTs, like on a flight across the ocean, or several days on a train.  If the clot breaks off it can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

Because of the danger in sitting too long, make sure you get up and move around whenever possible. Walk briskly to your gate, take the stairs, and on the plane or train be sure to get up frequently to walk to the bathroom and stretch.

Wearing compression garments can help.  There are socks and even full length compression suits that can be worn underneath your clothing. The gentle pressure helps keep blood flowing and reduces the chance of developing a blood clot.

Speaking of clothing, wear comfortable loose fitting clothing.  Avoid pants and belts that are constricting.  

Other things you can do to lessen your risk of a DVT is:

  • Avoid caffeine
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Taking circulation supplements like natto (made from fermented soybeans) and fish oil can help

Following these few travel tips can make for a much more pleasant journey.

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