Travel and leisure: 6 tips for travelling healthy

Published: November 15, 2014
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If you’re going to be globetrotting soon, you should consider the age-old corollary of Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Travelling can be strenuous and can hamper your physical wellbeing.

Especially if you’re travelling by bus or train in Pakistan, multiple germ hotspots such as public bathrooms can compromise your health. It’s always best to pre-plan ways that can mitigate the negative effects of travelling on physical health. As compiled from the Time magazine, independenttraveller.com and cntraveler.com, here’s what you need to know to stay well for your next getaway.

Strengthen your immune system

Scientific evidence on the effectiveness of supplements to treat cold and flu isn’t conclusive, but it definitely helps to take them because they toughen your immune system. They also make you less susceptible to catch the cold, according to Dr Phyllis Kozarsky, an expert consultant in travellers’ health at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. A frequent traveller herself, she favours probiotics to boost gut health. So, before taking a trip, consume more yogurt than usual to load up on probiotics and take a multivitamin regularly.

Wear glasses, not contact lenses

Contact lenses can dry your eyes and make them susceptible to microbial invaders, putting you at risk of catching a bacterial infection. Wearing glasses also makes you less likely to touch or rub your eyes. Lenses need to be regularly disinfected, something you don’t want to be doing while checking in at the airport or keeping an eye on the kids at the train station. Cleaning glasses is also essential, but it’s much easier to do and you won’t get an eye infection or corneal abrasion if you don’t clean them.

Sanitise hands regularly

The ticket kiosk, ATM, security-line bins, door handles, dining trays and tables are all hotspots of germs. “If it’s touched by a lot of people, it’s a potential problem,” said Dr Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, and founder of a blog about viruses. Use sanitiser on all parts of your hands, making sure to include fingertips and any rings or bracelets. If you can’t use it right away, make sure not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth till you can. Washing well with soap and water will also do if a sanitiser isn’t at hand.

Use public bathrooms cautiously

Never place your bags on the floor or your toiletry kit on the counter. If you must, then use disinfectant wipes to clean what you’re carrying. Close the lid of the toilet pot before flushing and if there isn’t one, flush as you leave to minimise spray-back. Avoid touching any surfaces with hands. Wash hands with soap and water for a full 15 seconds before you leave. Use your drying towel to exit without touching the door handle.

Buy water bottles before boarding

Keeping your body hydrated is critical when travelling. Dehydration not only makes you more exposed to germs, but also makes it harder for you to recuperate once you’re infected. Keep in mind that drinks, such as coffee and caffeinated soda don’t count as good choices for hydration. They further dehydrate you, so stick to the good ol’ water.

Clean your aisle-seat armrest

Pay attention to the armrest, especially if you’re in an aisle seat as that is often touched by passengers heading in and out of the restroom on a plane. If you touch a surface that is contaminated with germs and then touch your face, you could catch a cold or stomach bug. In a 2008 Centres for Disease Control investigation of a norovirus-infested flight, aisle-seat passengers were predominantly vulnerable. Carry a small packet of hand wipes and use them to clean the armrest, headphones and tray table area, and your hands, of course.

Compiled By: Umnia Shahid

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2014.

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