Although there are some reports that the flu season has peaked, it’s still chilly outdoors in many parts of the country, forcing people to spend more time indoors. But how can you minimize your risk if you are traveling to a place where you might come in close contact with other people? Although coming in contact with a sick person is just one way to catch the flu or a cold, there are other practical guidelines you should follow to help prevent you from getting sick on your next trip. Here are five ways to help you stay healthy while traveling.
Wash Your Hands
You don’t necessarily have to wash your hands as often as a doctor might, but keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to stave off the cold or flu. So how often should you wash your hands? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists recommendations, which include after using a toilet, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and before eating food. The CDC also lists a guideline on how to wash your hands and recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if no soap and water is available. Some studies have argued hand sanitizers are ineffective but these products are still being used at several public places, such as colleges and universities, public restrooms and medical facilities.
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Eat Healthy Foods
For many travelers, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet when on the road. One of the best ways to stay healthy on a trip is to simply avoid poor food choices, such as those found in fast food restaurants, and sticking to healthier choices like fruits and vegetables. But foods high in fat, sodium and calories can also be found at restaurant chains and even upscale establishments where extra portions of salt and butter are frequently added. If you’re on the road, try packing healthy foods for part of the trip and picking up more along the way. Among the best foods to boost your immunity system include citrus fruits and berries, leafy greens and other vegetables and nuts like almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. If you’re at a restaurant, trying ordering a salad with a healthy dressing, such as balsamic vinaigrette, low fat options or oil and vinegar.
Drink Plenty of Water and Other Fluids
Drinking plenty of water and other fluids are essential in helping you prevent illness on a trip during the flu season. The recommendation is approximately 13 cups of beverages a day for men and nine cups of beverages daily for women. But how much water and liquids you should drink depends on different factors, such as your size, the weather and how much you’re exercising. In addition to plenty of water, some of the best fluids for cold and flu prevention are fresh juices with no added sugar and herbal teas. On the other hand, caffeinated drinks and alcohol can both cause dehydration and can be dangerous when mixed together, such as an energy drink with hard alcohol. If you can, try just drinking water at your meal, while foregoing the oft times pricey glass of wine or other alcoholic drink.
Physical activity has several health benefits and is also described as one of the best “preventive medicines” not for the flu and the common cold but for a variety of other health ailments. By increasing your circulation and blood flow, your immune system functions more efficiently and can significantly reduce your risk of getting sick on the road. Exercise is also an excellent way to combat stress, which is an important factor in avoiding a cold or flu or lessening its duration if you’re already sick. If you’re planning on staying in a hotel, try to find one with a pool and/or fitness room, then take advantage of the amenities. If swimming or gyms aren’t your style, try going out for a number of walks during your trip.
Get Plenty Of Rest And Sleep
Just as you would if you had a cold or the flu, you should drink plenty of liquids and get plenty of rest. Regardless if you’re on the road or not, getting plenty of sleep has several health benefits, including a stronger immune system and stress reduction. Even if you feel you have to be on the go throughout your trip, you must allow ample time to let your body and mind recharge. Bottom line, lack of sleep increases your risk of catching a cold or flu.
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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.