6 Tips for Healthy Travel
By Liz Ozaist, Prevention
1. Waves Of Nausea
More than 50 million Americans planned to book a cruise between 2010 and 2013. And multitudes of stowaways—i.e., germs—will likely tag along. But despite the fact that cruise ship outbreaks of Norovirus, which causes stomach flu, have made headlines, hospitals, schools, and daycare centers are where 9 out of 10 such outbreaks actually occur. We hear more about episodes at sea because cruise lines are legally required to report outbreaks to the CDC. The organization also loosely monitors ship cleanliness and recently gave its top rating to 36 popular vessels, including Carnival Liberty, Norwegian Dawn, Celebrity Century, and Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas.
2. Sunny Side-Up
Bathing suit: Check! Fully loaded Kindle: Check! Two bottles of sunscreen for every member of your family: Seriously? That’s right. For adequate protection, you need to coat yourself every 2 hours and apply a lot more than you realize. Vanity alert: The thin skin on the top of your hands is a prime target for age spots.
3. Cabin Fever
Whenever you’re in a small, crowded place, you’re at increased risk of contracting germs, says Mark Gendreau, MD, an air-travel expert and vice chair of emergency medicine at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, MA. “Planes are often packed, and there’s also the issue of the very low humidity level on aircraft,” he says. “Your nasal membranes become dehydrated, which makes you more susceptible to infection from passing germs.” Aside from the obvious precautions—drink lots of water, use saline nasal spray, and keep your hands off your face—he advises turning the overhead vent above your seat to medium flow and directing the nozzle slightly in front of your face. Then, if someone sneezes, those 30,000 airborne droplets are less likely to rain down on top of you. Also, if you have a choice, sit at the front of the plane, which typically has the best ventilation. Finally, bring along an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes to clean your hands, tray tables, and armrests, which can be teeming with germs.
4. (Leg) Room For Improvement
Tennis star Serena Williams is in top physical shape, so people were shocked when she developed a life-threatening pulmonary embolism after a long flight in February. But “it can happen to anybody who sits in a cramped space for a long time,” says Arthur Agatston, MD, a preventive cardiologist and Prevention advisory board member. To keep clots from forming during long flights, periodically raise and lower your heels while seated and walk up and down the aisle a few times. If you feel calf pain when you flex and unflex your foot, call a doctor upon landing.
5. Get In The (Sleep) Zone
Between the hours you spent getting to the airport and the double time you put in at the office the week before, you’re even more tired than you were before your vacation started. What’s a sleep-deprived traveler to do? Graham Glass, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco Sleep Disorders Center, offers his tips to help you get your z’s.
Do …take melatonin. It’s not a sleeping pill, but it helps reset your internal sleep clock. “If you’re flying east, take it in the early evening before you leave on your trip; once you arrive, take another one an hour before bedtime,” he says.
Don’t …order a Bloody Mary on the plane the minute the beverage cart rolls by. We know, it’s tempting—alcohol can help you to fall asleep despite your cramped upright position. But overall, drinking will disrupt your sleep and leave you less rested.
Don’t …hit the sack as soon as you’ve checked in to your hotel—no matter how exhausted you feel. Instead, get on the local time. “There’s a saying that ‘heading east is a beast,’” says Dr. Glass. “If you must take a nap, keep it under two hours.”
6. Gut Reactions
You’re not Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods, so don’t feel pressure to try the deep-fried scorpion, even if it’s touted as the not-to-be-missed local specialty. If you’re in a country where food safety is a concern, follow these three simple tips from the World Health Organization.
Run from raw. That includes undercooked eggs, leafy greens, produce without a peel or shell, and red meat and poultry whose juices run pink.
Beware of the buffet. If cooked food has been sitting out for a while, do yourself a favor and don’t eat it. The presence of steam is a good sign that food is hot enough. Cold food should be sitting on plenty of unmelted ice.
Turn off the tap. In addition, avoid raw milk, ice cubes, and ice cream. Bottled water is your safest bet. If tap water is your only option, bring it to a vigorous boil first. And never swallow water in the shower or from the sink—brush your teeth with the bottled stuff.