AAA says over 115 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this holiday season, and with all the business of the season, taking care of yourself might be the last thing on your mind.
Dr. Rand and the team here at Regenerative & Sports Medicine outline 5 winter traveling tips below to stay healthy during this holiday season.
1. What is the number one tip for travelers for staying healthy this winter when traveling?
The most important immune supporting tool that I see most in the Western world eschew is adequate sleep. While it is generally believed that it is not really possible to “boost” immune function without drugs and other medical interventions, it certainly is possible to reduce immune function by not maintaining healthy habits. Regular sleep – 7 – 9 hours nightly and during roughly the same period (eg, 11p – 7a each night rather than at varying times, especially as occurs with “shift work”), daily exercise, and proper nutrition (including hydration) are keys to maintaining health and a well-functioning immune system. So, if not always, then before traveling and while on the road, pay attention to getting adequate sleep.
“While it’s not really possible to “boost” immune function without drugs… it certainly is possible to reduce immune function by not maintaining healthy habits.”
2. How do breathing exercises and increasing fiber in the diet to help ward off sickness.
Breathing exercises and other methods (eg, meditation and yoga) of reducing stress (and excess cortisol levels) can help keep the immune system functioning at its best. In addition, keeping fiber in the diet helps not only maintain healthy bowel habits, it can help keep the flora of the bowels (aka the microbiome) healthy, promoting the growth of “good” bacteria that support the immune system functioning at its best. Good bacteria in the bowels not only help the immune system through promotion of general health, but the good bacteria directly affect the growth of “bad” bacteria.
3. Is there something travelers can do the week before they travel, as well as when they arrive at their destination and when they get back home?
Other than sleep, exercise, and nutrition as mentioned above, if one suspects one has been exposed or will be exposed to virus, zinc lozenges and nasal sprays have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of a virus. Use of echinacea or astragalus, herbs that have been used for centuries in natural and Traditional Chinese Medicine, prior to exposure or within 24 hours of exposure to a virus may prevent an infection. And, some herbal formulations in Traditional Chinese Medicine have been shown to prevent or lessen the effects of an infection if taken within 24 – 48 hours of exposure. Of course, a drug, Tamiflu, can be taken to prevent or reduce severity of the flu if taken within 48 hours of symptoms presentation. Lastly, staying hydrated is very important to maintaining health and even a 1% reduction from normal hydration can affect immune system function.
4. Any specific tips for traveling kids?
Other than the tips mentioned above, it is probably worthwhile to pay more attention to children’s hygiene and healthy habits to avoid infection – mainly keeping hands away from the face and mouth, frequent washing of hands, and generally keeping one’s hands to oneself (good luck with the little ones).
5. What about a traveler with a compromised immune system? Should they travel during the height of sick season?
People who have compromised immune systems already are taking an even bigger risk obviously when traveling or anytime they are getting more exposure to the public – particularly in enclosed spaces like an airplane, train or bus. And, those with compromised immune systems are more likely to be sick and therefore to transmit infections during this season.
For more, jump on over to this LCR article.