4 Tips to Avoid Illness When You’re On the Road

Be proactive and enjoy your travel

Whether you’re going by plane, train or automobile, you’re looking forward to vacation. The last thing you want to do is get sick.

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Roxanne Sukol, MD, a preventive medicine specialist in Cleveland Clinic’s Executive Health Program, says it’s easy to get sick when you travel but has four tips for staying healthy on the road:

1. Prepare, but don’t fret

“You’re planning this wonderful vacation, yet of course it’s stressful.  You are worried about many details, including perhaps the kids, the dogs and the mail, and making all the other arrangements,” says Dr. Sukol.

“All that stress has the potential to compromise your immune system’s ability to function optimally.” Try to keep things in perspective as you get ready. What’s the worst that could happen if you forget something? You may be able to buy the missing item at your destination. Making a list can also help to ease your stress. And if your to-do list looks similar from one year to the next, you’ve got an excellent checklist for future trips!

2. Rest up for your trip

When you are finally on the road, you may not sleep all that well. You may be crossing time zones, sleeping in new places and traveling at odd hours of the day.

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“That can be very hard on the immune system,” says Dr. Sukol. “Make sure to keep regular bedtime hours in the weeks prior to your trip. And consider taking melatonin, which has been used successfully to help with jet lag.” Find melatonin dosing recommendations at clevelandclinicwellness.com.

3. Eat well before you go

Diet plays a role, too, says Dr. Sukol. We typically don’t eat well or drink enough water when we travel, which can decrease our immune system’s efficiency.

“To keep your immune system strong, make sure you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains before your trip and while you’re traveling,” she advises. “These whole foods are rich in nutrients, all of which contribute to a strong and healthy body. If you’re worried about sanitation, stick with cooked items only, and avoid fresh produce except for thick-skinned fruits like oranges and bananas.”

4. Keep hand sanitizer handy

You may not always be able to find soap and water when you want to wash your hands. To decrease your chances of getting sick on your trip, consider bringing hand sanitizer along.

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“Even when you do have the opportunity to wash your hands with soap and water, you’re still touching many things that other people have touched, which can inadvertently expose you to bacteria or viruses,” says Dr. Sukol. “It’s especially good to use a little hand sanitizer after touching handrails, doorknobs, or other communal things.

In the end, vacations should be fun and relaxing. Take the right precautions, and enjoy your trip!

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