How to stay healthy while traveling for the holidays

BOSTON — As offices empty and airports fill up, we all know how easy it is to get tired, worn down and sick while celebrating the holidays.

But doctors say the routine of holiday travel means there are a few things you can do to keep yourself healthy and safe.

We got some tips on how to keep from falling ill while heading out:

Airplanes and buses are receptacles for viral infections like the flu and the norovirus. Traveling in an airplane means sitting in recycled air, which increases the potential for exposure to infections. Taking one’s own vehicle is a better alternative to avoiding public germs, but driving, even short distances, can cause car sickness, a motion sickness resulting in symptoms such as nausea, headache and fatigue.

So, what can you do to ensure a safe and healthy travel experience? Here are some tips from Dr. Jack Cornwell of CareWell:

Traveling via Public Transportation
If traveling via public transportation, take the necessary precautions. Here are 4 essential tips to incorporate:

  1. Stay well-rested & try to sleep 
    Traveling can be both physically and mentally exhausting. To keep your immune system on alert, sleep on the plane, train, or bus. When you sleep, cytokines are released. These proteins help our bodies combat infection and boost our immune defenses.
  2. Wash your hands
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of all infections are spread by hands. To ensure the elimination of harmful bacteria, dedicate at least 30 seconds to the task (i.e. sing Happy Birthday twice) and make sure you address the back of your hands, between fingers, wrists, around cuticles and underneath fingernails. Washing your hands properly prevents the spread of both gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses by upwards of 20 percent.
  3. Do not touch your face
    People typically touch their face 16 times per hour! Respiratory infections such as the common cold, bronchitis and sinus infections are commonly transmitted from your hand coming in contact with your mouth, eyes and/or nostrils.
  4. Stay Hydrated
    Cruising altitude of a commercial airplane is 35,000 feet. High altitude causes low humidity, the resulting dry air makes the body more susceptible to cold and flu germs. This is because the only moisture available is from the breath of passengers. Staying hydrated promotes the elimination of toxins and waste materials, strengthening your immune system's response in fighting infections.

Traveling via Car 
If traveling by car there are not many innate illnesses, you can fall victim to, but there is car sickness. Car sickness is a type of motion sickness which occurs when your brain receives conflicting messages from your eyes, ears and muscles. If you are worried about motion sickness for either yourself or a family member, consider the following:

  1. Limit sensory overload
    Try to keep eyes forward and avoid looking down at items such as books, magazines, an iPad or phone. Even take a nap.
  2. Have a light snack pre-trip
    Hunger amplifies the symptoms of motion sickness. Keep the snack light, nothing spicy or greasy and stay hydrated.
  3. Roll the windows down
    Air ventilation is helpful in limiting the sensory overload. Roll the windows down and embrace the fresh air.
  4. Get out and walk around
    If it is going to be a long car ride, take breaks. Refreshing your body and mind with some light exercise will help you reset.