PhotoFor many, the holiday season is synonymous with travel. If you’ll be leaving home to visit family or take a holiday vacation, you might wish there were a way to keep sickness from striking during your travels.

While you can’t plan when you get sick, there are actions you can take to increase your odds of staying well while traveling. Donna Duberg, assistant professor of biomedical laboratory science at Saint Louis University, has a few tips for keeping germs at bay.

First, toss some hand sanitizer in your bag. “Hand sanitizer is my secret weapon,” Duberg says. “I use it every time I grab a drink or a cookie, sit down to rest and even before I go to the bathroom. You can even put it on a tissue and have a ready-made disinfectant wipe.”

She also suggests washing your hands for about 20 seconds after going to the bathroom, coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

Additionally, travelers should make sure to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated, Duberg says, keeps your body cool, promotes cardiovascular health, and keeps things flowing in your gastrointestinal tract, which prevents constipation. “If you feel thirsty, you’re not drinking enough,” she says.

On planes and at hotels

In addition to practicing good hand hygiene and staying hydrated, Duberg says these strategies can also help you stay healthy while traveling:

  • Avoid the aisle seat. Sitting in an aisle seat exposes you to more people; more people often means more coughing, sneezing, and germ-sharing in general. If you’ll be flying or traveling by train, bring along disinfectant wipes so you can wipe down seat trays and armrests.
  • Give your hotel room a once-over. Before unpacking, Duberg recommends making sure your hotel room smells fresh and doesn’t look dirty. If there is trash in waste baskets, dust on the window blinds, or grime on the carpet, your room might be germy. If staying at a hotel, consider bringing your own pillow or pillowcase and cleaning the TV remote before touching it.
  • Keep up with personal hygiene. Try to avoid touching your “T-zone” (your eyes, nose, and mouth -- areas of the face where germs can easily enter the body). Keep germs from hitching a ride on your hands by coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow rather than your hands. Finally, be sure to stay on top of your daily hygiene routine. Don’t forget to take a daily shower, brush your teeth, and wear clean clothes every day.  

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