When you are on vacation or traveling for work, the last thing you want is to come down with something. Unfortunately for many, getting sick during or shortly after traveling is a common occurrence. Continue reading to learn about the common causes of travel-related illness and what you can do to reduce your risk of falling ill on your next trip.
Why do we get sick when traveling?
It’s not uncommon to experience gastrointestinal distress or to catch a respiratory illness during or shortly after traveling. According to a cohort study involving 460 subjects, 79% of participants reported illness during travel or following their trip.
Several factors increase your risk of getting sick while away from homes, such as travel-related stress, jet lag, and contaminated food. Crowded public settings, such as airplanes, buses, trains, restaurants, and public restrooms, can also expose you to pathogens that can increase your risk of illness.
- Get Plenty of Sleep
In the days and weeks leading up to your trip, be sure to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. According to one study, not getting enough quality sleep in the weeks before exposure to the virus that causes the common cold (rhinovirus) increases one’s susceptibility to getting sick. If you are traveling to a different time zone and are suffering from jet lag, supplementing with melatonin may help ease symptoms associated with the time change and promote a better night’s sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in immune-boosting foods
Consuming a healthy diet year-round is essential for building and maintaining a healthy immune system. Poor nutritional status can impair your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection. Several nutrients and dietary components, including fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamins A, C, D, and E, support optimal immune function. Focus on consuming various fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and lean protein.
- Get Active
Regular physical activity positively influences your immune health by increasing the circulation of numerous immune cells responsible for combating pathogens. Try to remain physically active while traveling by walking daily, utilizing hotel gyms, biking, or engaging in other physical activities at your destination.
- Practice proper hygiene
Avoiding touching your face and frequently washing your hands can help minimize your risk of catching or spreading an illness. Using hand soap, wash your hands under warm water for at least 20 seconds. If you’re not near a sink, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to reduce some of the microbes on your hands. Hand sanitizer doesn’t kill bacteria instantly; it can take between 15 and 30 seconds to take full effect. The efficacy of hand sanitizer also depends on the volume you use. Apply enough to cover the entire surface of both your hands and rub your hands together until they are dry.
- Manage Stress
Traveling, whether it be for work or leisure, can be stressful at times. Stress can weaken the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to getting sick. Engage in activities that help relieve stress and calm nerves, such as yoga, meditation, listening to music, or reading.