Traveling for pleasure was almost impossible two years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded. As the world slowly opens up, more people feel comfortable booking flights again. Let’s face it, everyone deserves a vacation.
You want to avoid getting sick even if you have a common cold. It’s not how you want to spend your time away. Any flu-like symptoms, even if mild, can be frightening because COVID-19, a serious disease, is still a real threat.
If you do find yourself planning a trip, here are some simple steps to help you stay healthy. There is no way to prevent getting sick. However, SELF interviewed several experts to find out what you can do. They all agree on one thing: A good strategy for sickness prevention begins before you even leave the city!
1. Follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. You may be concerned about becoming sick from COVID-19 as highly infectious coronavirus variants spread. If you’re planning a trip, it’s important to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) safety guidelines1. You should wait to travel until your last dose is complete. This is best done two weeks before you leave, as it takes 14 days for your body’s immune system to fully develop. Ask your doctor if you are eligible for a booster dose before you travel.
A face mask is also important in public places, as well as while traveling on public transport, such buses, trains and planes. Keep at least six feet distance from yourself and others, especially indoors where airflow is less. Cindy Friedman M.D., chief CDC Travelers’ Health Branch tells SELF that masks can be a simple, effective barrier to prevent your respiratory dropslets from reaching other people. Masks can also prevent droplets from getting to you from other people.
2. Sleep well before and during your trip.
People get sick when they go on vacation because they are exhausted in the week leading up to departure. You know what I mean? A long to-do list that is miles long or generalized worry about not getting away. According to Carolyn Fernandes M.D., an infectious disease physician at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who manages the UPMC Travel Health Clinic, stress can lead to a decrease in your immune system. This makes it more difficult for your body to fight any pathogens.
Dr. Fernandes explains to SELF that he often advises travelers that they sometimes work too hard getting ready to leave, and that this can lead to a lack of sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep deprivation can lead to a decrease in cytokines, proteins that aid your cells communicate with your immune system, and certain antibodies that fight infection or counter stress. According to the National Sleep Foundation, although everyone has different sleep requirements, most adults need at least seven to nine hours each night.
3. Keep hydrated, especially when you fly.
It’s important to get enough sleep and to hydrate well before you travel. Drinking enough water can prevent you from feeling dizzy and tired.
As an added bonus, fluids can help you fight germs. By maintaining a moist environment within your throat and nasal passages through mucus production, it is possible to increase your body’s immunity. Dr. Fernandes explains that if you don’t hydrate enough, your cilia (the tiny hairs on your nose) won’t be able to do their job.
Mucus helps keep your hairs sticky and prevents germs from reaching your lungs. According to the British Society for Immunology6, you can then expel germs by coughing and sneezing.
4. To avoid foodborne illness, be careful what you eat and drink.
Drinking or eating something strange can make it difficult to get into your hotel’s bathroom. Dr. Friedman states that traveler’s diarrhea can be caused by eating or drinking contaminated foods and drinks.
She recommends that you stick to fully cooked, hot meals if you are unsure about certain dishes. Raw and undercooked foods carry potentially dangerous pathogens and can be more difficult to digest. Vendors who leave food out without refrigeration are something to be aware of. Dr. Van Groningen says to be especially cautious about products containing dairy products like eggs or mayonnaise. These are major foodborne illnesses.
5. You should wash your hands often (and thoroughly)
Handwashing is an easy and effective way to prevent illness. Dr. Van Groningen says that there is a greater awareness of handwashing due to COVID.
Particularly, wash your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds. It is important to wash your hands after touching items that are frequently used, such as door handles and handrails. It is important to wash your hands after touching things that are used by many people, such as door handles and handrails. Germs can easily get into your body through your nose, eyes, or mouth.
You don’t have to wash your hands each time you touch a surface or object, except when you are shopping. According to experts, it is important to wash your hands after eating. According to the CDC, washing your hands can prevent around 30% of diarrhea-related diseases and 20% of respiratory infections.
6. You should have essentials like pain relief, medication, and insect repellent.
It is possible to become ill while on vacation, even though most people don’t expect it. The CDC recommends that you have your routine vaccines and any recommended shots for your destination up-to-date before you travel.
If you feel unwell, it is a good idea to have any medications that may help, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, antihistamines like Benadryl, or antidiarrheal medication. You’ll feel great if you have items that prevent annoying symptoms, such as sunscreen and insect repellent.