Have you ever found yourself freshly out of the airport, finally arrived at your destination and without warning, reduced to sniffles? You’re not alone. Turns out, you’re actually MORE likely to get sick while travelling. Whether it be due to a disrupted sleep pattern, increased exposure to germs or the immune-burdening effects of overall stress, experts have confirmed staving off bad bacteria as a part of travel. The good news is there are things you can do to stay strong and keep your vacation (and immune system) intact. If you’re packed and ready, we’ve got a list of real ways you can minimize your chances of getting sick this time around.
Prior to Take Off
Shine your shield
A great way to ensure you are armed against latent germs is by fortifying your immune system. Though this may seem like an arduous task, it’s one where every little bit counts. Before you hit the road, be sure to get your rest, ditch the stress and keep a healthy diet top of mind. Since many of us are deficient in nutrients like B vitamins and immune-imperative zinc, consider a supplement if you feel like you need a boost. Last minute planners, take note: while regular supplementation can have a positive effect on your body’s immune system, keeping leafy greens as part of your regular menu should be first on your list to help you stay strong.
Look up weather at your destination
If you're heading down south, be sure to keep transit garb in mind. The time you spend travelling can be enough get you under the weather. While you’re at it, make sure to keep tabs on weather advisories
The secret is out: you’re your own best defense against getting sick! Though it’s much easier for germs to take hold in enclosed spaces like planes or trains, practicing good hygiene helps. All experts will tell you the same: wash often and for at least 20 seconds after touching public surfaces like doors, handles and faucets. If there’s no sink in sight, the squirt of a hand sanitizer (look for one with at least 60% alcohol content) can help do most of the trick. Open surfaces can also be perpetrators of germ spread, so be sure to keep wet wipes on hand to sanitize trays, screens and arm rests. And if someone is showing signs of sickness within respiratory range? Ask to move.
While on Vacation
Of all the reasons you need to drink water, we’re adding another to the list. Not only does water help keep you hydrated, but it also keeps your mucous membranes lubricated, loosening up stuffiness and congestion. Water isn’t the same in every country, so if you’re travelling abroad, check to see whether the tap water is safe. If you’re unsure, stick to bottled.
Get enough sleep
There's good evidence that people who get sicker while away from home often do so because of change in sleep and wakefulness cycles. Since your body works hard while at rest, producing proteins and infection-fighting antibodies, it’s no wonder your ability to defend yourself weakens when you’re not counting enough sheep. Keep your defenses high by getting enough consistent rest while away. This will help ensure that you’re armed and ready for whatever microbes come your way. Stuck in a time-zone change? Consider bringing along a melatonin supplement to help get your sleep back on track.
The fact of the matter is that the better you take care of yourself when you're NOT travelling, the better chance you have of warding off sickness while away. This not only includes a good diet and exercise regime, but also close attendance to your emotional wellbeing. Aside from the sense of ‘feel-good’, overall happiness has been known to neutralize cell cytotoxicity (a process that can harm healthy cells). What’s more, laughing and exposure to humour has been proven to relieve immune-suppressing stress and tension, putting you in a better position to enjoy your time off. So, have fun! It’s good for you.
Marchant, J. (2013, November 27). How Happiness Boosts the Immune System.
Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). How to boost your immune system.
Bennett, M. P., & Lengacher, C. (2007). Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 6(2), 159-64.