Thanksgiving travel happens right at the beginning of cold and flu season, which means that many families pass along more than pumpkin pie at the dinner table. It’s frustrating to get home from a weekend of togetherness, only to discover you’ve come down with something. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help protect yourself during holiday travel.
Get Enough Sleep
We hear this all the time, but most of us don’t get enough sleep. Whether it’s stress, busy schedules, or scrolling through the social media feeds on our phones, the time we devote to getting adequate rest is, well, inadequate.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, a “lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.” So definitely make it a priority to get some shuteye.
Much like we don’t get enough sleep, we often don’t drink enough water. While our specific needs will vary, it’s been recommended that adults consume between six and eight cups of water every day. You’ll need more, of course, if you’ve been sitting in a dry airplane for hours.
Drinking enough can help you arrive at your destination feeling healthy and refreshed, but some caution against sipping tap water on a plane (it’s pretty gross!). In fact, it’s best to travel with your own refillable bottle whenever possible.
Wipe Down Your Seat
Hundreds of people travel on an aircraft before it’s thoroughly cleaned. Seats are not disinfected after each passenger (in fact, it could be 30 days before that happens!) and you hear horror stories all the time about people sitting in vomit or diarrhea on a flight.
It turns out that many travel websites recommend wiping down seats, tray tables, armrests and more as soon as you board the plane. Who cares if people roll their eyes or stare? You’re never going to see them again and if it keeps you from getting sick, that’s all that matters.
Avoid Touching Your Face
One of the simplest things you can do is to avoid touching your face with dirty hands. Did you know that cold and flu viruses most often enter your body through your eyes, nose, and mouth? The CDC even warns about this in their flu prevention guidelines.
After touching common areas such as door handles, touchscreens, and those nasty bins at the TSA Security checkpoint, be sure to wash your hands. Can’t get to a sink? Use sanitizer. Then, be sure to squeeze a little into your hands before eating too!
Wear a Mask
People in Asian countries have been doing this for years, and recent flu seasons have been bad enough that the trend has started to spread to North America. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see celebrities sporting bejeweled and highly decorated masks to protect them during air travel.
The Mayo Clinic asserts that flu masks can not only guard against airborne germs, but can also keep you from touching your face (which as we’ve learned, is crucial). Just be sure your hands are clean when you touch the mask or else you risk contaminating it.
Stay at a Hotel
Even if everyone gets along, it’s stressful to gather together for the holidays. People of differing opinions, diets, and lifestyles under the same roof can make things a little tense—and managing stress is one important way to keep yourself healthy!
A solution is to stay at a hotel instead of crashing with friends or family. Not only will you have your own space to decompress but you’ll also avoid sharing a bathroom with Uncle Jerry and his five sick kids. It’s hard to argue with that!
There’s no way to guarantee that you won’t get sick during holiday travel unless you decide to just stay home this year. Incorporating a few things into your routine, however, can help lower the chances of you coming down with something. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!