‘Tis the season to head home for the holidays, but getting from point A to point B can really mess with your body during peak time for colds and flu.
The sheer stress of the journey – from flight delays and crowded planes to a disruption in sleep schedules and eating habits – lowers your body’s defenses, making you more susceptible to illness. But take a few precautionary measures, and you’ll be well on your way to a much happier holiday.
Here are the top five tips for steering clear of sickness, whether you’re traveling to a winter wonderland via plane, train or automobile:
1. Wash your hands.
It’s the No. 1 rule from experts; with a greater concentration of people and germs indoors, disinfecting hands and other frequently-touched surfaces (think shopping cart handles, airplane tray tables, etc.) is extremely important. When soap and water aren’t available, go for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as these from Bath & Body Works.
2. Get plenty of sleep.
The frenetic pace of the holidays often results in sleep deprivation, which not only affects your immune system, but can also make you more susceptible to overeating, lethargy and mood swings. Aim for six to nine hours a night, and supplement with naps in between. Try the J-pillow ($31.95), an update to the 40-year-old U-shaped travel accessory, which was named a 2012/13 British invention of the Year.
3. Eat well (and often).
Just like the advice of not going grocery shopping on an empty stomach, the trick here is to make smarter meal choices well before hunger hits. Pack high-protein, low-sugar snacks in your carry-on for quick access and to stay energized throughout your trip. Check out FitSugar’s list of healthy road trip snacks, which will help tide you over to the next meal without falling prey to the fast food rut while on the road.
4. Stay hydrated.
To add insult to injury with air travel, there’s a serious lack of humidity in the cabin, which leads to dry noses, throats and mouths. To combat dehydration and help keep mucus membranes moist (so they can do their job), bring on the drinks! But skip the sugar, caffeine and alcohol; instead, sip eight ounces of water for every hour in the air. Check out BluFit Bottle, a smart water bottle that works with your phone to record your water drinking habits and help keep you hydrated and healthy.
5. Sneak in some exercise.
Think there’s no time for exercise between shopping for presents, running errands and attending parties? Think again; it’s easy (and dare I say – fun?) to incorporate heart-pumping activities into the holiday hubbub. Park farther away at the mall, take the stairs at work, shovel snow, count pre-party housecleaning as cardio, and don’t forget to walk the dog, which will help you both burn off excess energy. When all else fails, try making some form of physical activity a tradition, such as heading over to the Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square for some fun and fresh air for the whole family.
Here’s to a happy, healthy holiday season!