those rushing out the door on the way to Grandmaís house for
the holiday, hereís the most important safe-travel tip we
can offer. In three words:
them long enough to sing the ABC song, says Dr. Laura Hanson
of Texas Womanís University. Otherwise, microorganisms youíve
brought to the surface with that initial scrub wonít be
completely washed away.
the holidays, more people get sick because colder weather
forces us indoors, says Jan Jowitt, director of nursing and
infection-control officer at the University of North Texas
Health Science Center. "You have a lot more contact with
individuals in closed areas."
the same people who may stay home the rest of the year when
theyíre sick feel compelled to stagger into public places
during November and December. Every time you touch a doorknob,
refrigerator-door handle, remote control, water faucet, gas
nozzle, or you reach into a bowl of peanuts ó all
well-utilized places, especially during the holidays ó well,
letís just say youíre not the first person to do so.
sometimes getting sick is inevitable, simple steps can stack
the stay-well odds in your favor.
your routine. Make sure youíre meticulous about this, says
Christina Vargas, a Dallas ayurvedic health practitioner and
yoga therapist. Veering from your usual bedtime, types of
foods eaten, as well as sleep and exercise regimens can throw
off your schedule and thus, your immune system.
bodies are made to protect us from getting infections,"
says Dr. Emily Hebert, a preventive medicine physician at the
Cooper Clinic in Dallas. "But when weíre in the prime
for illness ó lack of sleep, stress, coming off a recent
illness ó that revs up our risk."
hand sanitizer. "Iíd never even given thought to the
gas pump," Jowitt says. "But you can imagine,
thousands and thousands come through and start pumping gas.
You donít know where their hands have been. Then after you
touch the pump, you get into your truck and see, ĎOh, thereís
my McDonaldís burger.í Thatís how people get what they
call the stomach bug. There may be fecal matter present that
doesnít belong to you. I know it sounds disgusting."
you canít do what you normally do, modify. "Exercise
helps with metabolism, it helps with our good humor, it keeps
us energetic and healthy," Jowitt says.
and sneeze into your elbow. Particles from a sneeze can
contain the influenza virus, Jowitt says. "If youíre
having a conversation and use your hands or a tissue to catch
the sneeze, some of the particles come through your fingers
and through the base of the Kleenex. Say Iím standing next
to you and about the time I need to take a deep breath to go
on about my conversation, thatís where I can be
mask if youíre sick. Preferably, donít travel at all.
"You also donít know what other people have,"
Hebert says. "There could be a cancer patient, and if you
give them the flu, that could be potentially fatal."
your own snacks. Maria-Paula Carrillo, a registered dietitian
nutritionist with Lemond Nutrition in Plano, makes sure to
have packets of nut butters, which she spreads onto fruit or
onto whole-grain crackers.
sodium intake and carbonated beverages. "You risk feeling
bloated," Carrillo says. "By the time you get off
the plane, your shoes may be tight. You may not feel so
good." Limit alcohol intake, too, she says; itíll hit
you a lot harder when youíre 35,000 feet above the Earth.
water, and if it makes you use the bathroom more often, so
much the better. Moving is a good thing. Plus, it will help
limit your risk of blood clots. One warning: Airplane
restrooms are notoriously germ-ridden, so be sure to use a
paper towel to touch the flush lever or faucet.
essential oils. "Lavender oil is antibacterial,
antimicrobial, antiviral," Vargas says, as well as
calming. "Put a little on a napkin or handkerchief and
just inhale it." Peppermint oil can reduce motion
sickness, she says. "Take the oil in a container and hold
it to your abdomen and slowly bring it to your chest till you
smell it," she says. "Itís also great for the
wipes liberally. Youíre more likely to encounter unwanted
microorganisms on light switches, remote controls and bedside
lamps than on the more obvious places like the toilet, says
Hanson of TWU.
"It wouldnít hurt to wipe down the flush handle either.
It wonít take very long. Itís quick, easy stuff."
Change wipes frequently so what you wipe off one thing wonít
end up on the next. One study, she says, showed that an hour
after someone with a cold left a hotel room, more than half
the people who touched items that person had handled would
pick up the virus from what they touched.
bedbugs at bay. "For bacteria and viruses, the way the
hotels wash sheets would kill those," Hanson says. But
bedbugs hang out in mattresses, so check mattress and pillow
seams for eggs. If you canít switch rooms, spray yourself
with insect repellent.
your luggage in the bathtub, which is one of the least likely
places for bedbugs to be. Donít put it in the dark
go barefoot. Wear flip-flops, slippers or socks.
out more hand wipes. Most travel infections reported come from
restaurants, Hanson says. "Just do a quick wipedown. How
do you know the last group who sat at your table didnít have
a kid who sneezed and then reached out for the ketchup bottle
or the syrup?" Additionally, she says, despite the
"Employees Must Wash Hands" signs in restaurant
restrooms, studies have shown sometimes as few as 5 percent of
employees heed them.
diligent about eating produce. Chances are, holiday meals will
offer more starches than greens. Thatís fine, but include
the good-for-you colorful foods, too.
probiotics. Whether in pill form or in yogurt, they can help
if you have a sensitive stomach and are eating foods youíre
not used to, Hebert says.
hydrated. "Drink tons of water," Hebert says. Not
ice water, Vargas warns, because it "reduces our
digestive fire, our metabolism. Soda, coffee, alcohol,
excessive amounts of sugar weaken the immune system."
share. If your sisterís drink or your kidís mashed
potatoes look delicious, get your own, Jowitt says. Saliva is,
after all, a bodily fluid, and "other peopleís forks,
food and glasses have plenty that could be contaminated with
reminder about the most important step:
your hands. The experts just canít seem to say that enough,
with a caveat.
everyoneís in the house together, even with the best hygiene
practices, itís hard to keep from getting sick," Hebert
says. "It stinks."