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How to Prevent Illness While Traveling

Healthy Living

Primary Care Physician with AdventHealth Shawnee Mission

Do you have a tendency to catch a cold or flu after traveling? You’re not alone. In fact, there are lots of things about traveling that leave us vulnerable to infection—airport germs, the dry air on an airplane, lack of sleep, disrupted routine, etc.

The good news is that you don’t have to accept this fate. There are simple steps you can take to protect yourself while traveling so that you can come home and not skip a beat. Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you travel.

Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.

When you’re in a crowded airport or airplane, your exposure to germs is heightened. The eyes, nose and mouth provide germs the easiest pathway into the body. If you need to rub your eyes, blow your nose or eat something with your hands, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching any of these areas in order to prevent the transfer of germs.

Practice good handwashing.

Many people believe that hot water is the key to successful hand washing, but in reality the amount of time your hands are in contact with soap has a bigger impact on cleanliness. You should be soaping up your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Be sure to clean between your fingers and all the way to your wrist, and rinse with the warmest water you can tolerate.

Use caution around these surfaces.

While no public surface is completely void of germs, there are a few that are particularly germy. In the airport, avoid touching hand railings, doorknobs or food trays. When you must come into contact with one of these surfaces, use a napkin or paper towel as a barrier.

On the airplane, use a paper towel to open the bathroom door after washing your hands. If using the seat tray in front of you, avoid touching the surface with your hands and don’t let food touch the tray directly. Use hand sanitizer before consuming anything on an airplane.

At the hotel, be sure to disinfect the TV remote as well as any public keyboards and mouses before use. Take extra care to keep bottles and pacifiers clean if traveling with little ones.

Pack nasal spray for a flight.

The low humidity in an airplane can dry out your nasal passage and throat, making it more difficult for your body to fend off bacteria. Over-the-counter saline nasal spray can help to combat this issue. If traveling as a family, each family member should have their own nasal spray—this isn’t a product that should be shared, as it could spread germs.

Get plenty of rest.

With so much to see and do, travel schedules can get busy. But it’s important to prioritize healthy sleep habits, even when it feels like time is of the essence. Sleep deprivation takes a toll on your immune system and can leave you vulnerable to illness. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you are unable to get this amount of rest, try to make time for a nap during the day.

Being mindful of germs and taking steps to protect yourself can help prevent illness during and after travel. However, if you or a loved one experiences concerning symptoms while traveling, AdventHealth has resources you can connect to from anywhere. You can reach your local AdventHealth Nurse Line at 913-676-7777. Additionally, you can get in touch with your PCP through the AdventHealth patient portal wherever you have access to the internet.

Avoid Germs
While Traveling:

Disinfect these surfaces

Germs are everywhere, but these surfaces are particularly prone to collecting the most viruses and bacteria. Lower your risk of infection by avoiding or wiping clean with disinfecting wipes.

Remote Control

Hotel TV Remote

Hand Railings

Hand Railings

Airplane Restrooms

Airplane Restrooms

Seatback Trays

Seatback Trays

Public Keyboard/Mouse

Public Keyboard/Mouse

Food Trays

Food Trays

Aisle Seats

Aisle Seats