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December 9, 2009 > Hitting the Road Over the Holidays?

Hitting the Road Over the Holidays?

Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

For many, the holiday season is a time to travel. Whether you are visiting loved ones or traveling to exotic places, there are some steps you can take to stay healthy.

"The biggest one is don't travel when you are sick," said Dr. Steven Curran, a family practice physician at Washington Hospital. "It jeopardizes your health as well as the health of those around you."

With both the H1N1 and seasonal flu strains making the rounds, it's important to reduce the risk for getting and spreading the respiratory disease. "Get your flu vaccinations if you can," he said. "It's easy to pick up germs on your hands in airplanes, airports and other public places. These germs can spread disease. So wash your hands frequently while you travel or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Cover your mouth when you cough with a tissue or your sleeve, and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth."

He said it's important to take good care of yourself by getting plenty of rest and eating nutritional foods. "During the holidays, healthy routines like eating right and getting exercise are often disrupted. Try to stick to your healthy habits, even while you are traveling."

Curran provided these additional tips for staying healthy while traveling this holiday season:

Reduce your stress levels. The holidays can be a stressful time anyway, and taking time off from work can add to that stress. There always seems to be so much to do before you leave, on top of preparing for the trip. Try to prioritize what needs to be done and set reasonable expectations for your vacation. Don't over-schedule your time and make a conscious effort to relax.

Prevent jet lag. If you want to avoid feeling overly tired when you reach your destination, don't drink alcohol on your flight. It disrupts your sleep and can dehydrate you. Instead, drink plenty of water or other nonalcoholic beverages to stay hydrated. When you reach your destination, get out early the next day to reset your body clock.

Avoid food and water-borne illnesses. It's important to pay attention to illnesses that can be spread through food and water, especially when leaving the country. In places where clean water is an issue, use bottled water and don't consume drinks with ice in them. Make sure food preparation is done in a clean environment, even when visiting friends and family. It's also best not to eat raw foods or meals prepared by street vendors.

Prevent accidents. Whether you are driving across the state or flying across the globe, you need to think about your own personal safety. Never drive tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs - or take a ride from someone who is. Always wear a seatbelt and make sure your children are belted in or in a car seat if needed. Wear proper gear when engaging in sports or other activities, and don't push yourself beyond your physical limits.

Stay sun safe and avoid bug bites. If you are headed to the tropics or somewhere else warm for the holidays, you need to protect your skin. Use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of 30 or higher. A hat and sunglasses also offer good protection. Bugs in many areas can be more than just annoying, they can be dangerous. Be sure to use bug repellent and wear long-sleeved pants and shirts at night, especially in areas where mosquitoes carry malaria.

"To stay healthy while you travel, learn about your destination so you know the risks and hazards that may await you there," Curran added. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great website that provides details about specific destinations."

For more information and tips on staying healthy while traveling, visit and click on "Travelers' Health."

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