Every summer I help families get ready to travel, whether that be domestic or abroad. Wherever the destination, the most important travel tip I can provide is, simply, to not get sick. There is no way to predict who around you is playing host to a virus, so here are some of my favorite strategies for staying healthy while traveling.
BRING SEVERAL SCARVES WITH YOU —
Pack several scarves made of different materials (silk, linen, bamboo) and put them in a Ziploc bag inside your purse or carry-on. After you settle into your seat, wrap your scarves loosely around your neck, nose, and mouth. They’re great for keeping your neck and respiratory system warm on an airplane, while looking totally chic. Part of the reason we get sick is that our mucous membranes dry out in an airplane because of the low humidity levels and bad circulation. Keeping our mucous membranes warm and moist helps minimize the chances that germs, bacteria, and viruses will enter our respiratory systems. In addition to helping filter out some of the airborne germs and cold air, scarves are great for protecting your hands from dirty surfaces. (I even use my scarves to avoid touching dirty bathroom door handles!)
STOCK UP ON VITAMIN C AND HERBS —
Several days before you board a plane begin taking 1500 mg of vitamin C broken down into 3 doses of 500 mg, 3 times a day. You can also take elderberry chews every 4 hours while traveling to help keep viruses at bay. I always pack a special bag of homeopathic remedies that have all my Chinese herbs, vitamins, cough drops, and herbal teas, so I can have everything at my fingertips if needed — especially for long flights. Just make sure to remember to always carry your medication with you in your carry-on in case your checked luggage is lost!
GOOD BUGS —
Probiotics are high up on my list of what to take while traveling. Be sure to pick a special multi-strain probiotic that is designed to withstand heat and does not need to be kept cold. Probiotics are essential to good immunity, vaginal and digestive health, and will keep your bowels regular.
TUMMY TROUBLES —
Take some ginger candies with you to avoid airsickness. Try adding them to hot water to make tea in a pinch. Ginger will also help with gas, bloating, dry throat, and bad breath. I also like peppermint for overeating, indigestion, and heartburn.
STAY HYDRATED —
Keeping hydrated is mandatory for immunity and skin health. Hot decaffeinated tea not only keeps you hydrated but the warm steam keeps nasal passages open, especially on airplanes where the air is very dry and it’s easy to become dehydrated. Try to avoid coffee, sodas, or alcohol when flying as they can dehydrate you and make you more susceptible to disease. I even travel with special dehydration tablets that I drink in my water when I fly!
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD —
Airplane food is notorious for having high sodium, preservatives, and lacking in any nutritional content. Even sitting in business or first class doesn’t guarantee you a good meal. I always recommend packing your own food and having light portable snacks for flying and ground travel. Carrots and celery sticks, and fruits like apples and bananas make for great snacks and are easy to transport. Make sure to stick to your regular eating schedule to keep your digestion rhythm regular.
SKIN HEALTH —
Aside from staying hydrated, avoiding caffeine, and getting enough rest there are other things you can do to keep your skin looking great while flying. First, don’t touch your face because planes and airports are crawling with bacteria which will certainly lead to breakouts. Always use antiseptic individual hand wipes before touching your skin, and use cleansing face wipes and face oils to keep your skin hydrated. Face masks and eye drops are also some of my personal favorite must-haves.
JET LAG IS A DRAG —
Jet lag can be pretreated with auricular therapy done by a licensed acupuncturist. Ear seeds are placed in the ear on specific points and will dramatically help fight jet lag. It’s also helpful to have some herbal hot tea immediately upon landing to get your digestion moving and to expose yourself to daylight to assist in adjusting your circadian rhythm to your new time zone. Exposure to sunlight, dusk, and dawn will help you make more serotonin and melatonin, which help to regulate sleep cycles. If necessary, you can always take a small dose of melatonin the first few nights you arrive, doing the same upon your return.
MOVE YOUR BODY —
For circulation issues, do not wear tight clothing on the plane and allow yourself plenty of legroom under the seat in front of you instead of stuffing it with your personal belongings. Try to stretch every 20 minutes in your chair and, if possible, walk around the airplane. On flights longer than 12 hours you have a greater risk of developing blood clots, especially if you are on birth control pills, so it’s important to keep your lower legs moving. Get up every hour and move around the cabin. When seated, point and flex your feet to keep circulation flowing. Upon arriving to your destination, take a brisk walk outside to adjust your body to the climate and time zone.
I always tell my patients to have foresight instead of hindsight while traveling. By utilizing these travel strategies you’ll stay healthier so you can get the maximum enjoyment from your travel experience.
Dr. Elizabeth Trattner is a Doctor of Chinese and Integrative Medicine and an Acupuncturist. For more information about Elizabeth, visit elizabethtrattner.com or find her on Instagram at @dreliztratts, Facebook at @drelizabethtrattner, and Twitter at @acumom.