Staying Healthy While Traveling During the Holidays can be a demanding task during these unseen times. You have to worry about multiple things. Is your house thoroughly cleaned now? Have you checked off all the home maintenance items you have been putting off for so long? Is your yard the nicest one in the neighborhood? After you changed out the flowerbed three times? We have been under pandemic conditions for going on 9 months now. The good news-I closed out a lot of projects I had been meaning to do. The bad news-less travel and missing family and friends. I’ll bet you are ready to get out of the house for the Holidays. Are you missing your family or friends? Or perhaps you have finished reading all those books that have been on your “to-do” list. Well, if you just cannot stay home any longer and have decided to travel for the Holidays, there are just a few things you need to remember to have an enjoyable trip and return home ready to get back to your routine, whether it’s working from home or heading to the office. Let’s talk about how you can stay healthy while traveling this Holiday season. Some simple measures to ensure you and your loved ones make it home safely are to protect you and your loved ones from communicable illnesses, practicing healthy habits, and following measures to keep you safe and prevent injury.
As you plan to leave the comforts and safety of your home let’s not forget all we have learned over the past nine months. We have changed habits, lifestyles, our way of living. We have guarded our home, family, and the pet cat from COVID-19. Now it’s time to head out across town, through the state, or around the World. Not everyone has acquired those same habits. Some even doubt the presence of the COVID-19. As an emergency physician I can tell you COVID-19 is real. I have cared for numerous patients with the virus and at various stages of severity. Sadly, many will not be celebrating the Holidays with us. But COVID is not our only concern as we travel. It’s now flu season, too. You can also get Strep throat, bronchiolitis, or other viruses while traveling. So, perhaps if we practice the same, and simple techniques we employed over the past 9 months, we may not even see the surge of illness we normally experience. My first recommendation should you hop in the Enterprise and explore the universe is to get your “flu shot”. “My employer is not giving it out yet” I have heard from many people. Did you know you can go to your local pharmacy and have your insurance (if you have it) cover it? Often this is no cost to you at all. If you do not have insurance that covers the flu vaccine it is usually about $40 or less. That is certainly worth not missing work or cancelling your vacation. How many face masks do you have? If you can wash them, great. You don’t want to keep wearing the same mask every day, or even for a full day, without changing or washing. So, bring several along. Do you have plenty of alcohol-based hand sanitizer? Sanitizing wipes? When you stop in public restrooms you may, or may not have plenty of soap, clean water, or towels. When traveling, the first way to stay healthy is to take care of yourself. Protecting yourself and the people around you keep you from spreading any illness you may have acquired without knowing, and from bringing unwanted visitors home with you that you picked up along your route. So, cover your face and wash your hand!
In order to stay healthy, especially when traveling, it is important that our bodies (and our immune systems) have the strength to protect us and to fight off any invaders. We keep our immune system healthy and strong by getting plenty of rest. This may sometimes be difficult when traveling. We get so excited to see our family and friends that we neglect our sleep. Are you traveling across Time Zones? We may not be accustomed to sleeping at different hours than we are used to. Regular wake time has been shown to be more beneficial than a regular sleep time but getting on a routine is the best practice for a healthy sleep pattern. If you find yourself sleepy during the day take a little nap. Drinking plenty of water on the road can also have numerous benefits. Water helps our circulatory system, which helps us deliver antibodies and other immune mediators throughout our bodies. Have you had a urinary tract (bladder) infection? Not something fun to get while traveling. Staying well hydrated may help prevent you from getting this uncomfortable condition. Eat healthy while you are on the road, too. It’s too easy to snack even when we are not hungry. Stopping at fast food restaurants will not only break the bank but could break the scales when we get home. This few steps will help you in staying healthy while traveling during the holidays.
Schedule time to stop and exercise along your route. Whether you are on a long car drive, or airplane or traveling to the moon stop and stretch those legs. Have you heard of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)? These are blood clots you can get in your leg veins. Improving the blood flow can help prevent those blood clots from forming in your legs. Frequent breaks, walking, and stretching can go a long way to preventing these from developing. Did we mention hydration? To stay healthy while traveling remember rest, hydration, healthy eating, exercise, and avoiding stress to keep that immune system vigorous.
Is there anything we can do that does not involve risk? The World can be a dangerous place. What we do to protect ourselves when we are in our community can also protect ourselves while traveling. When we are in unfamiliar places, we can easily get distracted. Therefore, be aware of your surroundings. Is this a safe place to be? Is this a safe time to be wandering about? Are people around me aware of their surroundings or acting carelessly? If you are walking on the sidewalk, are you prepared to avoid cars or people? Is there a safe place to escape? If you are in a car, are we wearing our seat belts? Do we have GPS? We can help the driver by being aware of what is going on around us, and not distracting the driver. Did you bring a First Aid kit? This can be quite helpful by having a few band-aids, antibiotic ointment, and acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort. Most people are not without a phone or a connection. Do you know where the nearest hospital, emergency department, or urgent care is? If you do not, then look up the Smart Phone App called “findERnow”? In case you are located in Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area, our Trusted ER locations are open 24/7/365 for your assistance. Install this before you go, and it will be one less item to cause you to stress at that moment when you have an emergency in unfamiliar territory. Planning and preparation do save lives. When you are traveling, be aware, be safe, and have a back-up plan in case something unplanned happens.
There is so much that we can write about how to stay healthy while traveling, but I believe we have covered and summarized some of the most salient points: Keep you and your family healthy first, protect your immune system by practicing healthy habits, be prepared in case you find yourself in a bad situation or an accident occurs. What are the odds something unfortunate will happen to you while traveling? I am not a fortune teller but I focus on staying healthy while traveling during the holidays as we battle this pandemic. I am a physician that practices emergency medicine and have cared for many people that have had their vacations interrupted. Some have been able to continue with their travel plans, others have been forced to cancel, and some-the last vacation they ever took. Therefore, do not take chances. It is a dangerous world out there, for many reasons. Let’s take care of ourselves and look out for each other so we can enjoy this holiday season and the many more to come.