During this holiday season there will be lots of traveling to visit friends and family and along with that can be extra exposure to cold and flu bugs. If you are flying for the holidays you can be at a 20% increased risk of catching a cold according to research presented in the Wall Street Journal. And the Journal of Environmental Health Research reported research findings that you are 100 times more likely to encounter cold germs on an airplane than in everyday life on the ground. If you think about it any kind of travel leaves you open to more germs with using public restrooms, eating out, being in closed quarters with others, and the stress involved, but airplane travel has some extra environmental conditions like the low humidity from being at higher elevations. In this type environment we are more likely to have a dry throat and nose which means the mucus that normally protects us is not available and we are more likely to become dehydrated which can cause conditions such as headaches, stomach problems, cramps, and fatigue. With air travel we also encounter security situations that can leave us more susceptible to germs. For example, passengers are required to remove shoes when going through security which according to the director of the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Michael Zimring, MD, can lead to your picking up a bacterial or fungal infection. Holiday travel and just the holidays in general have more opportunity for exposure to germs since there are more than 200 various viruses lurking around during the winter and with shopping in crowds and attending holiday parties and events we are around a lot more people all breathing the same air, and as Dr. Keri Peterson, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, warns, touching the same doorknobs, escalator and stair rails, drinking from the same water fountains, and handling the same merchandise and utensils.
Natural Solutions For Avoiding Cold and Flu
All this extra exposure may make you reluctant to travel, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Just be aware of the extra ways of encountering cold and flu bugs so that you can take action against them and you can increase your likelihood of staying well to enjoy the holidays no matter where you are traveling to.
Keep It Clean – One of the best ways to keep from ingesting cold and flu germs is to wash your hands frequently, especially after touching something that others have touched. Give some thought to what you are touching that anyone else could have touched before you – armrests, handrails, seat levers, remote controls, tray tables, faucets, door knobs, and anything else you touch that someone else could have. Use hot or warm water and soap rubbing for at least 20 seconds throughout your travels to wash your hands before you touch your mouth or nose and you’ll help cut down on the amount of germs you let into your body as studies show that these germs can live for hours on objects or your own skin. If washing your hands is not possible, which it often isn’t while traveling, you can use hand sanitizer to clean up. Alcohol based ones are specifically recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can use these not only to clean up your hands, but also on armrests, tray tables, remotes or any other objects that may have germs including door knobs and faucets in public restrooms. Hand sanitizing wipes are a convenient form to use when traveling and you can use them to open doors and turn on faucets so that you don’t actually touch these places with your skin.
Drink – That means water! Drinking water will help you stay hydrated and boost your immune system function. Traveling and the holidays often mean drinking alcohol and increasing caffeine to stay awake, but when traveling it’s best to avoid these as they can add to dehydration. Experts also recommend that taking small sips of water throughout your travels, especially on airplanes, instead of drinking a lot at one time is more effective. Drinking hot drinks can also help keep the mucus in your nasal passages from suffering in a drier environment like on a plane. You can also use nasal sprays during your flight to help keep them moist and helping you fight off germs.
Boost Immune Nutrition – Before taking off on a trip, really boost your immune system nutrition a few days ahead. That means increasing your intake of vitamin C foods, and foods with antioxidants, beta glucans, zinc, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein sources. Avoid a lot of sugars and fatty foods too so that your immune system is working at its peak when you leave. Your immune system suffers when you don’t have the right nutrients feeding it. One way to get a boost of these nutrients according to Karl Abrams, chemistry professor, is with AFA bluegreen algae. For instance, the carotenoids in AFA give you the antioxidant protection for immune cells, boosts immune function by the protection it provides for the thymus gland, increases the amount, activity, and circulation of white blood cells and helper cells from the thymus that fight viruses and increases the activity of B-cells that create antibodies like IgA. You also find glutathione in bluegreen algae that is necessary for lymphocytes to replicate and the functioning of natural killer cells. For traveling, these packets of algae, probiotics, and enzymes are an especially convenient way to take all this nutrition with you. For AFA and extra antioxidant nutrition, this wholefood algae supplement is another good traveling companion as is this algae mushroom supplement with reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake, Turkey Tail, and Agaricus blazei mushrooms with astragalus, beta glucan.
Keep Your Germs to Yourself – Being aware of places that others touch a lot can help you avoid spreading germs. When going through security at the airport, Michael Zimring, MD advises making sure you are wearing socks and keeping them on when walking on the floor through security where many others have walked before you. Dr. Keri Peterson and other experts remind you to cough in your sleeve or elbow instead of your hands and to not touch your face getting germs on your hands. Bringing your own pillow or blanket if you plan to sleep on the plane, bus or train instead of using ones provided can also help you cut down on germ exposure. One you may not even have thought of is touching seats as you walk up the aisle, but many others have been touching those same seats. Just be extra aware of anything your hands may touch and either avoid those things or be sure to wash up afterwards. When traveling you also encounter lots of other people and some of those may be sick. If you really have to make sure you aren’t sick for the holidays, you may want to resort to wearing a protective mask over your mouth and nose. If you are uncomfortable with that, then avoid contact with anyone you suspect is sick or “coming down with something” and use a Neti pot to flush out your nasal passages as soon as you can as well as some of the other tips we’ve mentioned.
Cut Down on Stress – You get a double whammy on stress with travel which is stressful and with the holidays which are stressful. Stress takes its toll on the immune system giving us less protection for fighting off any cold and flu germs we encounter. When traveling make sure you get adequate rest and don’t forget to pack your stress fighting tools. If soothing music helps you relax bring your music with you, if you have a soothing scent that cuts down on your stress reactions bring it with you. And of course unless you are the one driving you can always do some meditation to bring your stress level down. Even drivers can use deep breathing exercises. If you don’t regularly use these techniques, check them out on the internet before leaving on your trip.
Keep Moving – Remember that regular exercise helps boost the immune system and cuts down on stress hormones. I know it may be hard to keep up with your regular exercise routine during the holidays and especially when traveling, but look for ways to keep your body physically moving. Walk when you can even if that just means walking around the airport before your flight or that you stop the car to walk around a bit at a rest area. Take the stairs if you can instead of the escalator or elevator, walk in place while standing in line, and get creative with finding ways to work in whatever type of body movement you can.
No one wants to spend the holidays feeling bad or having to miss holiday events being home sick in bed. Being aware of the extra germs circulating and where they may live is the first step to helping you avoid them. Remember these travel tips as you start your holiday travels and you’ll arrive at your destination healthy and ready to enjoy your holidays.