As we prepare for our travels and family gatherings this holiday season, I wanted to remind you about dangers of the cold and flu season, and equip you with tools to stay healthy. These tips are useful year-round, and I hope they will help you fully enjoy your travels!
Having weathered my fair share of illnesses while traveling, there are some things you can guard against, and then there are things you cannot predict (such as an emergency appendectomy — the photo above was my view as I was recovering during my travels). Following these simple tips may reduce illnesses for you or a family member.
Healthy Traveler Tip #1: NEVER touch your face
Cold and flu viruses can infect your body when they come in contact with an entry point. Your eyes and nose are easy targets for viruses. By NOT touching your face with your hands, you reduce the chance of giving viruses access to your immune system.
If your eyes or nose itch, use a tissue to rub gently. If necessary, use the back of your hand to rub your face. It may be slightly cleaner than the fingertips, but may still carry viruses and bacteria.
If you have just washed your hands, touching your face should be safe. Things brings us to Tip #2….
Healthy Traveler Tip #2: Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands frequently is a good rule at all times. You may touch something that someone had just left germs on – and then have to share that person’s flu.
Wash your hands:
- after using the restroom
- before eating
- but AFTER touching the restaurant menu, or the buffet serving utensils (the last person could have left you an unwanted cold or gastrointestinal virus on those surfaces)
- after you cough or sneeze
- after you blow your nose
- after touching ride surfaces at theme parks (especially ‘shooting’ rides such as Toy Story Mania, Buzz Lightyear Ranger Spin, and Men In Black Alien Attack)
- after opening a public door (such as at shopping malls, or the post office)
- after touching money
Using a sanitizer gel may be helpful, but should not replace washing your hands with soap and water when possible.
Healthy Traveler Tip #3: Use a paper towel when opening the restroom door
By now, you are well trained to wash your hands. Unfortunately, not everyone else does. It shocks me how often people use the restroom, and leave without washing their hands!
Even if you washed your hands, when you touch the restroom door handle, thousands of germs can be transferred to you. Using a paper towel to open the restroom door is helpful to protect yourself. Many cruise lines and hotels have paper towels or tissues by the restroom doors, with handy trash cans to toss them in afterwards. This is getting increasingly difficult as paper towels are being replaced by air hand dryers in many restrooms.
While visiting Space Shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC, I was impressed by a unique mechanism on the restroom door: the “Clean Escape.” This was a foot-operated door opener pull – what an ingenuous invention! Hands-free to help keep you safe. Here is a link to their website: http://www.cleanescape.com/ (I have no financial association with this company, but wanted to share this device and hope that it becomes more widely installed).
Healthy Traveler Tip #4: Carry Antibacterial Wipes
It is not always practical to wash your hands. It is much more practical to carry antibacterial gel; better yet, antibacterial wipes. I use a quart size, zip top baggie (same size that the TSA requires) and fill it with folded antibacterial wipes from a larger home container. Approximately 10 wipes fit in easily each baggie. Depending on the length of the trip, I may pack 1-2 baggies. In a future post, I will share more tips on antibacterial wipes.
Healthy Traveler Tip #5: Get plenty of rest
Your body’s ability to fight infection depends on the strength of your immune system. During the holidays, physical and emotional stress can be major factors as we prepare for family gatherings and travel. Keys to taking care of your immune system include eating healthy, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of rest. That way, you give yourself the best chance possible to fight any illness that may come your way!
Do you have stories of how an illness affected your travels? I would love to hear them! Please leave me a comment below!
Until next time, wishing you blessings this holiday season, and happy and healthy travels!