How to Stay Healthy While Traveling: Tips for Families and Individuals
December 17, 2021
As the holiday travel season begins, more people are traveling to be reunited with families and loved ones. But many families and individuals are considering how to stay healthy while visiting loved ones and getting away.
Ron Kraus, president of the Emergency Nurses Association, and his family are among the millions of families who are trying to plan holiday gatherings while still protecting the health of young children who are unvaccinated as well as elderly family members.
“We all want to get together, we all want to see each other, and some people haven’t seen each for a long time, and I get that,” Kraus said. “But it’s not worth the endgame of potentially getting somebody ill.”
While COVID-19 poses significant travel risks, traveling domestically and internationally inherently carries other health risks. There are steps families and individuals can take to minimize their chances of getting sick during the winter holiday travel season and beyond. Nursing@Georgetown has gathered recommendations from nurses and public health organizations to help guide families and individuals in making decisions around travel. The links below can help navigate to different sections with information about staying healthy during travel.
In addition to COVID-19, there are other health risks individuals may encounter when traveling close to home and abroad — from the common cold to malaria.
Families should consider their own risk tolerance and set boundaries as they are planning trips, especially with unvaccinated children. Parents might question whether a trip is worth any potential risks that come with travel and if the necessary requirements to keep their families safe outweigh the benefits. According to Kraus, these considerations are unique to each family.
“Everybody has their own individual thought process,” Kraus said. His recommendation is to pause and consider what best serves the family and takes into account their safety.
How to Stay Healthy Using Different Modes of Transportation
Different modes of transportation carry different risks. Regardless of how families are traveling between points A and B, Kraus recommended frequent hand-washing and masking as essential steps for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.
Below are some of the common risks associated with traveling by plane, train, bus, and car, paired with precautions passengers can take to help prevent these conditions.
How to Stay Healthy Before, During, and After Travel
Best practices for traveling domestically and internationally vary by destination. But in general, there are basic steps individuals and families can take to prioritize their health no matter where they go: staying hydrated, prioritizing sleep, and eating well.
“A body that’s kind of run down and tired may be more susceptible to a virus,” Kraus said.
People who are pregnant or have chronic conditions should take extra care to prepare to stay well while traveling and should understand the health care options at their destinations.
“Wherever they are going, it really helps if they preplan — should they need medical help — what kind of medical services will that place that they’re going to have,” said Heintje Calara, a DNP with 30 years of nursing experience who serves as a clinical practice liaison for Neurocrine Biosciences.
The tips that follow can help families and individuals take precautions before, during, and after trips to maintain their health while traveling in the United States and abroad.
General Tips for Traveling Anywhere
Before A Trip
Prioritize getting good sleep and nutrition.
Put together a basic first-aid kit, including over-the-counter treatments for cold and flu symptoms and diarrhea.
Pack prescription medications, including extra doses.
Travel with medical identification cards, insurance cards, and allergy information.
Consider securing travel insurance, depending on the duration of the trip and the destination.
Get vaccinated against common pathogens such as the flu and COVID-19.