After a very rough 2020, the world has entered 2021 with new hope. COVID rates are falling and vaccinations are rolling out in most countries. Now that some countries have reopened, it’s more important than ever to know how to stay healthy while traveling. Not only do you want to protect yourself from COVID, but also keep yourself healthy on the road. Jet lag, new foods, and prolonged sitting all contribute to overall health.
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Wear a Face Mask
Current scientific research has shown that COVID-19 is primarily spread through airborne respiratory droplets. When an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, those droplets can land on the faces of those near them. When expelled during a cough or sneeze, airborne droplets have been shown to travel upwards of 6 feet. To help prevent the spread of these droplets, many health organizations recommend wearing a face mask. A face mask is a simple barrier that can prevent an infected person from releasing droplets into the air. It’s also very important to note that in order to be effective, masks must be worn over both the nose and mouth.
Not only is a mask important for keeping you healthy, it’s also required on airlines, in many states, and upon entry to many countries. For our recent trip to Aruba, we stocked up on masks from Old Navy. These Triple Layer Cloth Masks are stylish and very comfortable. We also keep Cat Crap Anti-Fog spray on hand. Our kids have played hockey for years, and this has been a life saver in preventing foggy glasses on the ice and while wearing a mask.
IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE that currently, a lot of EU countries are requiring the use of KN95 or FFP2s surgical masks only. Cloth masks are no longer permitted. With the hope that we’ll be able to visit Europe this Summer or Fall, we’ve purchased a case of these KN95 masks off Amazon. They’re individually packaged inside the case, so I’ve put a few in the glove box of each vehicle, just in case we leave home without our regular masks.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of health, and critical in how to stay healthy while traveling. Deficient sleep has been linked to increased risks of kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Sleep also has a profound impact on hormones, weight, concentration, immune health, and depression. Quality sleep is a pillar of overall health, so it’s important to insure you’re obtaining quality sleep on the road.
We often travel as a family, so it’s even more important we all get good sleep. If we’re all well rested, we’re more patient and understanding when things don’t go as planned. Children also tend to behave better when well rested. When traveling, our family always packs a bottle of melatonin. Not only does it assist us with falling asleep but also getting quality sleep.
In addition to sleep, hydration is also a key point in how to stay healthy while traveling. Every single system in your body requires proper hydration in order to function. Fluids carry nutrients to your heart, brain, and muscles. As we get older, it becomes easier to become dehydrated. Medications, exercise, and perspiring often lead to a loss of fluids in our bodies. To avoid dehydration, it’s recommended to consume between half an ounce and a full ounce of water per pound of a person’s weight. In addition to water, our bodies stay hydrated through foods. While on the road, try to consume healthy water rich foods like vegetables and many types of fruits.
When our family travels, we spend the majority of the time outside exploring, site seeing, or hiking. This time outside walking for many hours and sweating can cause our bodies to dehydrate very quickly. Luckily, we found these awesome Collapsible Water Bottles that keep us hydrated. Once empty, they fold down to a convenient size, making them easy to throw in a backpack. Personally, I’ve always struggled to keep my electrolytes up, so I’ve also started carrying these individually sealed Electrolyte Packets. I’m able to add them to my water to stay hydrated and ward off that dreaded dehydration headache.
Sanitize Your Phone
It’s common knowledge by now that your phone is the most germ infested item in your possession. Our phones have become like an extra appendage. Lifeline to family, navigation, news, shopping lists, and more, the convenience of our cell phones have made them nearly indispensable in our lives. A recent study by the University of Arizona calculated that the average American touches their phone over 96 times a day. Since we spend so much time holding our phones, they become covered in germs very quickly.
COVID-19 aside, we should be disinfecting our phones regularly. Without regular disinfecting, viral pathogens and bacteria can run a muck on our phones. And when traveling, all the new surfaces we touch can be quickly transferred to our phones. Every time we check for directions or look up language translation, we risk making ourselves sick. These days we can use special electronic disinfecting wipes (be careful that they are rated for electronics, so as to not damage your phone). In addition to wipes, there’s now plenty of options for Portable UV Phone Sanitizers. These sanitizers can kill up to 99.99% of germs on your phone in only 3 minutes. This ingenious product will now always travel with us.
Keep Sanitizer Close By
I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t immediately think of hand sanitizer when considering how to stay healthy while traveling. These days, hand sanitizer is more valuable than gold. If you can find it, it’s handy to keep in your purse, in your bathrooms, and in your carry on. In fact, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the TSA is now allowing one 12 oz bottle of hand sanitizer per person. It’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer handy while traveling when you don’t have access to a sink and soap for proper hand washing. Alcohol based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is best, to help kill germs.
Exercise Proper Hand Washing
Hand sanitizer is great in a pinch if you don’t have access to soap and water. For instance, many foreign countries do not offer hand washing stations near restrooms. Some will offer sinks but no soap or towels. (And don’t get me started on the Fecal Bacteria Blowing Hand Dryers!) Far and away, washing your hands with soap and water is more effective than hand sanitizer. It should be stated that this is only true when there is scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
One thing we have always included in our packing is a bottle of liquid hand soap. Hotel rooms commonly offer bar soap, but we’ve always preferred liquid hand soap with a pump. Antibacterial Hand Soap is relatively inexpensive and is an essential addition to your hotel bathroom. You can also fill a Travel Bottle with soap for pre-meal hand washing. I’ll also be packing a Travel Microfiber Towel for our upcoming trip to Japan, as their restrooms are known to not offer towels very often.
Keep Up With Your Oral Hygiene
When considering how to stay healthy while traveling, it’s important not to neglect your oral health. In fact, it’s best to keep up with your 6 month cleanings so you and your dentist can stay on top of any issues in your mouth. Not much would be worse than a dental emergency while in another country. The first step to maintaining your oral health while traveling is to brush regularly, preferably after every meal when possible. Bacteria love to live in the dark, moist, safe haven of our mouths, so it’s vital to keep your mouth clean.
It’s also imperative to keep your toothbrush clean. When traveling, keep your toothbrush stored in a sanitary space. You could also consider using disposable toothbrushes while on the road. Just like the portable phone sanitizers, they now make Travel Toothbrush Sanitizers that are surprisingly affordable! Another consideration is the water you use to rinse. Check the water quality of your destination before you leave. And when in doubt, use bottled water.
Pack Essential Medicines
When traveling, make sure you pack any medicines that you take each day. But be warned, a lot of medicines that are prescribed in the U.S. are illegal in other countries. I’ve read many horror stories of unsuspecting tourists entering a country with their prescribed medications, only to be detained and arrested on drug charges. For instance, some ADHD and standard US cold medicines are illegal in Japan. If your prescriptions are legal where you’re traveling, make sure you keep them in the original bottle and carry a copy of your prescription with you. Those daily pill organizers are great, but to a customs agent or law enforcement officer, they will only see unidentified pills.
Prescriptions are very important in how to stay healthy while traveling, but so are vitamins and nutrients. In addition to your prescription medication, be sure to pack your personal physician approval vitamins. These days, you can find multivitamins in easy-to-use, individually sealed packets. I much prefer these packets, so multivitamin pill bottles don’t rattle in my purse like a child’s toy.
Prevent Blood Clots
When traveling for long periods of time on airplanes, trains, or in cars, blood circulation in the body becomes less effective. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a very serious condition that occurs when blood clots form deep within your body. Typically these clots form in calves and thighs. Symptoms include swelling in the feet or ankles, cramping, severe pain, and skin discoloration. When flying, prolonged sitting and dry cabin air have been shown to increase the risk of DVT. Those at an increased risk of DVT include those over 50 years old, overweight, on birth control pills, or pregnant.
If you will be traveling and inactive for a prolonged period of time, take proper precautions. Try to sit in a bulkhead, exit, or economy plus row for extra leg room allowing you to stretch and move your feet and legs. For a long-haul flight, get up every few hours, if you can, to move your legs and stretch. If mobility isn’t possible, an option can be compression stockings. If worn during a flight, compression stockings help boost leg circulation, prevent blood from pooling, reduce swelling, and helping prevent DVT.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults have at least 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. At home, it’s easy to get into a routine with daily jogging, a regular gym, or a recreational sports league. However, when traveling, our exercise regime can be thrown out of whack. When traveling, our immune system will already take a hit, so it’s important to keep up with regular exercise. Aerobic activity improves your cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure, improves lung function, and keeps your blood sugar under control. During your trip, try to incorporate exercise into your days. Get your steps in touring historical landmarks, hit up local trails, walk to dinner, or swim some laps in the hotel pool. Exercise will help keep your immune system strong and keep you healthy on the road.
Protect Your Skin
Everyone knows that beach trips call for sunscreen, but that’s not the only time you need to be protecting your skin. Skiing, golfing, outdoor sporting events, hiking, and walking tours are all times our skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light. Applying sunscreen should be as common as brushing our teeth and applying deodorant. It protects us from skin cancer, keeps our skin looking young, and prevents painful burns. If you will be outdoors for any prolonged period of time on your trip, make sure you apply sunscreen. You can also put on a hat to protect your face, neck, and ears.
Check on Required Vaccinations
As of March 2021, the United States Center of Disease Control has approved the use of three COVID vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, and the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. We have linked CDC information related to each vaccine so that you can make an informed decision on which is best for you. Additionally, there are also many other vaccines out there that can protect you abroad. These vaccinations cannot be overlooked when planning how to stay healthy while traveling. Some vaccines are even required when visiting certain countries. If you’re traveling to South America, it’s a good idea to get vaccinated against yellow fever. If you’re traveling to Southeastern Asia, it’s a good idea to get vaccinated against rabies. And if you’re traveling to Japan, it’s a good idea to get vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis. Make sure you check with the Centers for Disease Control to ensure you have the necessary vaccines for your destination.