Your holiday travel plans are all set. You’ll be flying to visit family, which means a few days of baking cookies, sitting around the fire sipping eggnog and watching the kids play with their toys.
But first you have to survive the trip there.
Whether you’re flying, taking the train or even driving (crowded rest stops) that means avoiding all of the germs that your fellow travelers are sending your way. It also means keeping your body strong to survive the natural stressors of travel and the holidays.
Not worried? Check this out: A team of microbiologists and engineers at Auburn University in Alabama found that viruses like MRSA and E. coli can survive for four days or longer on airplane upholstery.
Yes, that’s gross, but knowledge is power. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid the germs, keep your immune system strong, stay energized and enjoy the season.
Beware of the Bathroom
We all know that public restrooms are dirty. The real culprit is the spray of droplets that reach up to 6 feet away every time the toilet flushes. Your first defense? Take as little as possible with you into the bathroom. Have your spouse hold your coat, for example. If there’s a lid (uncommon these days) close it before you flush. If there isn’t a lid, flush with your foot and move away quickly. Lastly, after washing your hands, use a paper towel to turn the water off and to open the door. Whatever you do, don’t set your purse on the floor. If there’s no hook, hang it around your neck ... seriously.
Don’t Drink the Water
An EPA study found that one in every eight airplanes failed the agency’s standards for water safety. While it’s unlikely you’d drink tap water on an airplane anyway, you also should avoid ice, coffee and tea. You also should avoid brushing your teeth, even after an overnight flight (hello, chewing gum) and you might want to use hand sanitizer even after washing your hands.
Actually, Avoid Everything
Do you really have to read that magazine in the seat back? And do you know how many people have used the pillow you just asked for? If you’re traveling with kids, this is a real challenge as they’ll want to check out how the tray, the shade and the air vent work—at least 10 times each. Carry antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer and try to keep them from touching their mouth, eyes or nose.
Bring a Face Mask
Sure, this may feel a bit extreme. But it’s not a bad idea to have a mask on hand just in case you are seated next to someone who is obviously sick. If someone is coughing or sneezing right next to you, no amount of hand sanitizer can prevent you from breathing in those germs.
Get a Flu Shot
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If the woman next to you on the plane has the flu, this is the best way to minimize your risk of getting it. Be sure to plan ahead and get your shot several weeks in advance.
Keep Up Healthy Habits
Candy canes, cookies and eggnog are treats you may not want to eliminate altogether, but you can consume them in moderation. Also, make a point of hitting the veggie tray first. That way, you’ll make sure you get the good stuff in, while also taking the edge off your hunger.
Stress can take its toll on your immune system—and the holidays certainly can be stressful. If you’re feeling like you have too much to do before you travel for the holidays, see what you can simply remove from your list. Maybe you don’t have to bake cookies, host a big party, hang up lights and send out cards. Pick at least one item and simply put it on hold for a year. You can save time, reduce stress—and avoid a lot of germs—by ordering gifts and even groceries online.
The holidays can be a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, but they are also an invitation for both germs and stress to try and steal the show. If you end up getting sick, despite your precautions, this isn’t the time to simply hope for the best. Find a physician to make an appointment and we’ll help you get healthy—and back in the holiday spirit.