While viruses are detected all year-round, there are particular seasons and months of the year when fears of contracting an illness are heightened, especially if you’re a traveler.
This article will explain 9 incredibly practical tips for keeping your family healthy when traveling.
Though most may seem cliche, there is scientific evidence that these precautions really do make a difference in preventing you from becoming ill while traveling.
Despite their simplicity, it is important to never become complacent with these 9 illness prevention measures versus resulting to panic behavior or feelings of helplessness.
Keeping Your Family Healthy While Traveling
There are several reasons that can be attributed to why people tend to get sick more often when they travel vs. when they are at home and going about their usual routine.
Reasons for the increased risk of becoming ill while traveling can be related to the following:
- Mass transit such as airplanes and trains puts you in close proximity to hundreds of other people (some of who are likely ill) in an enclosed space.
- Foreign countries can be home to foreign illnesses and diseases that may not be on your radar, therefore you’re not taking preventative measures against them. Be sure to consider this, and other tips for traveling internationally with kids.
- Tap water is some areas may be contaminated and cause unexpected diarrheal illness.
- Travel can alter your usual daily medication routine and treatment regimes for your underlying conditions.
- Stress and fatigue experienced while traveling can cause increased cortisol in your bloodstream, resulting in a weekend immune system.
For these reasons, and more, it is important to stick to the following tips for keeping your family healthy while traveling in order to offset your risks of becoming ill.
1. Wash Your Hands Often
According to the Center for Disease Control, handwashing continues to be one of the best ways to prevent you and your family from getting sick.
Just as important as handwashing itself is knowing when and how to handwash – a process that you should definitely review before traveling.
The key to keeping you and your loved ones healthy is to perform handwashing often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
Handwashing – The ‘When’
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Handwashing – The ‘How’
Once again, there is a science behind the recommendations on ‘how’ to perform handwashing.
Not adhering to these exact actions increases your chances of becoming sick and in spreading your germs to others.
Follow these five handwashing steps every time:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Use Hand Sanitizer As An Alternative
Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer as an alternative to washing your hands with soap and water when soap and water are not readily available.
It is important to check the sanitizer’s product label and be sure that it contains at least 60% alcohol in order to be relied on to reduce the number of germs on your hands.
Likewise, follow these 3 steps for the effective use of hand sanitizer:
- Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
- Rub your hands together.
- Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
2. Get Plenty of Rest
It is important to maintain good sleep habits and allow for rest in order to keep your family healthy while traveling.
According to Mayo Clinic, people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold.
Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
In order to bolster your immune system, the optimal amount of sleep for adults is 7 – 8 hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
Be sure to adhere to these suggested guidelines despite being away from home in order to keep your family healthy while traveling.
In addition, read up on tips for dealing with travel anxiety if stress and worry stand in the way of you getting a good night’s sleep when away from home.
Source: Mayo Clinic
3. Stay Hydrated
General good health practices call for keeping your body strong and ready to fend off illness. That includes staying hydrated by drinking plenty of clean water.
After all, water does wonders for the body, especially when it comes to keeping your family healthy while traveling.
Drinking water regulates your body’s functions and keeps you hydrated in order to ensure your body systems can work properly. It also works to enable immune responses that are responsible for fighting off viruses and germs that you may encounter while traveling.
Last, water helps eliminate toxins that your kidneys accumulate—so increasing water intake will work to flush out and detoxify the negative waste in your body that could contribute to illness.
When traveling, aim to drink six to eight glasses of water a day—more if the weather is hot, or if you already have a fever.
4. Make Healthy Food Choices
It is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet every day, not just when you feel that you may be becoming sick.
Healthy food choices boost your immune system and can prevent you from coming down with colds and the flu.
For this reason, consider bringing along some of your own snacks and food when traveling to guarantee that you always have a nutritious option on hand.
By eating nutritiously, our immune system will have the right vitamins and nutrients to keep us healthy during skipped meals, increased activity, and disrupted schedules that are common while traveling.
Focus on eating a good breakfast and two other meals per day.
Don’t forget to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and other immune-boosting foods for optimal health while traveling.
8. Be Active
In addition to eating right, exercising regularly can help to boost energy and strengthen your body to fight off any germs.
Though we do not know exactly how, there are several theories suggesting how exercise increases your immunity to certain illnesses.
Some suggest that physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways as well as slow down the release of stress hormones, and in turn, protect against illness.
Regardless, when you keep your health and wellness in check, your body is better prepared to handle foreign germs that may come its way.
Tips for keeping your family healthy while traveling should involve staying active while on vacation, walking (vs. driving) to an event or attraction that is nearby, and/or seeking out family-friendly exercise and adventure during your travels.
5. Use Disinfecting Wipes
Common cold and flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours.
Without knowing if a sick person has come in contact with a commonly touched surface, it is a good idea to sanitize the area by using portable disinfecting wipes.
Use antibacterial disinfecting wipes on key spots that you’ll encounter while traveling such as airplane seats, tray tables, and seatbelts, as well as on doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, and countertops in your resort or hotel room.
Next, don’t forget to disinfect any restaurant tabletops, both indoors and outdoors, that you and your family sit down to eat at.
Last, if you’re at the gym while traveling, make an effort to spray down any equipment before you touch it. Most gyms provide both cleaning solutions and disinfecting wipes in order to do so.
To disinfect a surface, wipe so that the surface remains visibly wet for four minutes and then let it air dry.
6. Make Sure Your Immunizations are Up-to-Date
Because of good vaccine coverage of children in the United States, some of the diseases prevented by routine vaccines rarely occur here.
However, these diseases can be much more common in other countries, even in areas where you wouldn’t normally worry about travel-related illnesses or disease.
Being up-to-date on your routine vaccines will give you the best protection against these illnesses when traveling as a family.
What vaccines you need depends on your age, health, and what vaccines you have already had.
The CDC continues to recommend a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against influenza and its potentially serious complications.
For more information on immunization schedules, see:
- Infants & Children (birth through 6 years old)
- Preteens & Teens (7 through 18 years old)
- Adults (19 years and older)
- Vaccines Specific for Travelers
*At the time of publication, a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine isn’t currently available.
7. Protect your skin
As the largest organ of the human body, taking steps to protect your skin is one of the most important tips for keeping your family healthy while traveling.
If traveling to a destination where mosquitos and other biting insects are prevalent, be sure to take steps to protect your family from bug bites.
When traveling to Mexico, U.S. travel doctors will recommend that you bring along an insect repellent that contains a minimum of 30% DEET, for example.
Being that DEET-based mosquito repellents are very difficult to find in Mexico itself, this is why we include it on our Mexico packing list to remember to bring from home.
The other form of skin protection comes in the form of applying sunscreen.
Not only is a healthy supply of sunscreen a family beach essential, but best practice calls for applying sunscreen every day 30 minutes before venturing anywhere outside.
Even when it’s cloudy, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV radiation reaches the earth.
Be sure that your sunscreen is 30 SPF or higher and blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
Likewise, reapply every two hours throughout sun exposure and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Source: The Skin Cancer Foundation
9. Have Medications on Hand
As part of your overall family packing strategy, include any medicines and other medical supplies you and your family use regularly. They may be hard to find at your destination.
Don’t forget inhalers, allergy medication, and insulin, if needed.
Likewise, consider taking along suggested “as needed” prescription medications. This pertains to having discussed specific travel concerns with your health care provider.
Other items you might want to pack:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever and fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen
- A small first-aid kit that includes antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, and bandages
- Cold and cough mediation
- Eye drops
Prevent The Spread Of Germs
In any discussion on tips for keeping your family healthy while traveling, it is important to reiterate how to prevent the spread of germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Clean surfaces you often touch.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home from work, school and public areas for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
Here’s to wishing you safe and happy travels all-year-round!
What is one things that you plan to do to help keep you and the kids healthy on your next family vacation?Jen
If you enjoyed our article outlining tips for keeping your family healthy while traveling, click here to check out our Related Posts:
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