Holiday travel can take a toll on your health if you are not careful, according to Amy Laude, M.D., a family medicine practitioner with UT Physicians, the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
“During the holidays, many people are rushing and often not taking care of themselves,” said Laude, who sees patients at community health and wellness center UT Physicians-Southwest. “It’s not uncommon for holiday travelers to come down with a cold, the flu or an upset stomach.”
Laude recommended five simple steps for reducing the risk of illness as tens of millions of Americans travel to see family and friends over the holidays:
1) Get a flu shot – It’s a great way to guard against the bane of many holiday trips. Last flu season, only about half of all Americans received the flu vaccine. Symptoms of the flu, which tend to be more severe than the common cold, are fever, cough and body aches. It’s a highly contagious respiratory illness that’s easy to catch in a crowded car or plane. There is a prescription treatment if taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms, but otherwise, patients have to suffer through it.
2) Slow down – When someone travels hundreds if not thousands of miles to see loved ones, there is a temptation to try to do it all. Many people will try to see as many relatives as possible and cram in multiple number of visits to museums, ballgames and special events. All that rushing around can be stressful and leaves little time for adequate rest and relaxation, which can affect your immune system.
3) Carry hand sanitizer and wash your hands often – Hand washing or sanitizing before you eat can protect you from a host of conditions including upset stomach and diarrhea. Disease-causing germs are located on doorknobs, handles, switches – everything. Vice versa, you do not want to be the one to make others sick so be sure to wash before handling food and after going to the restroom.
4) Eat healthy – Enjoy and celebrate with special food on the holidays, but be sure to balance it out with healthy eating the rest of the week. If going on an airplane, pack your own healthy snacks such as fresh fruit and cut veggies and stay well hydrated to keep your digestive system happy. Holiday food can be loaded with salt so read those packaging labels to curb your sodium intake, especially if you have hypertension or heart problems.
5) Stick to a routine – If you get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 10 p.m., try to stick to that schedule while on the road. Your body clock can get thrown out of whack by late nights and this in turn will increase your susceptibility to illness. Regular exercise is as important on the road as it is at home as it helps manage the stress of travel. If you will be traveling to a different time zone, try coming home a day or two before you need to go back to work or school to get your body back on your regular clock.
UT Physicians – Southwest is at 10623 Bellaire Blvd., Suite C280 just outside Beltway 8. The phone number is 713-486-5900.
— Rob Cahill, Media Relations