Travel Tips to boost immunity before and during your vacation
By Tracey McCollum, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, Chief Nursing Executive Officer, Southwest Division, Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center
Whether you’re planning a camping trip to Yosemite or a honeymoon in the Bahamas, travel can be an unforgettable adventure. The last thing you want is an unexpected illness to ruin your plans.
Our immunity can suffer during travel for several reasons. Sleep can be compromised, we’re trying not-so-healthy foods, and we may get a little slack on the exercise routine. Combine this with exposure to more germs, forgetting to hydrate regularly, and the stress of being on the go, and our immune system may end up a little out of balance.
The good news is, that there are a few simple steps you can take to boost your immunity and improve your chances of staying healthy.
Before you go
- Get your flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes about two weeks for the flu shot to provide full protection, so plan ahead.
- If you’re traveling outside of the U.S., additional immunizations might be necessary. The CDC offers a list of vaccination requirements by country. Visit https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list to learn more.
- Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night, beginning at least two or three days before the trip.
- Remember to hydrate several days before departure as well. According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a good daily rule of thumb is 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups for women.
On the journey to your destination
- Wash your hands with soap and water often, especially after using the restroom and before meals. Carry a small hand sanitizer bottle, at least 60% alcohol, for the times a sink is not available.
- Continue to hydrate. This is especially important while traveling. The mucous membranes in our nose and mouth, which act as barriers to bacteria, can dry out with inadequate hydration. This leaves them more permeable to germs, which can be especially prevalent in the tight quarters of an airplane.
After you arrive
Whether you simply settle in and kick your feet up, or embark on a sightseeing expedition, remember the following tips.
- Continue to practice good hygiene, hydrate regularly, and get adequate sleep. Avoid your computer or phone screen right before bed.
- Eat healthy, balanced meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid street food from vendors with poor sanitation practices.
- If you’re visiting a place with questionable water sources, stick to bottled or filtered water.
- Use insect repellent, which can help protect you from mosquito-borne diseases.
- Limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption. Too much of either can cause dehydration, stress the immune system, and interrupt your sleep.
- If you’re feeling tired or under the weather, take a break. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits.
With these simple steps, you’ll boost your resistance to illness so you can enjoy the dream vacation you’ve been looking forward to. I wish you a healthy journey.