Traveling during cold and flu season can feel like a game of Russian Roulette and I’ll be completely honest — I avoid it like the plague, pun intended. If you’re trying to visit loved ones over the holiday season or treat yourself to a sandy getaway to escape the dreariness of winter, however, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
Before we go any further, I’ll just clarify that I’m not a doctor and there are plenty of people who will scoff at this list. It’s important for everyone to feel confident in the decisions they make for their own health so, definitely do your own research. Also, yes, many will argue that getting sick is simply a part of life and builds immunity but that’s not true for everyone (plus, it’s so frustrating to spend money on a trip that you can’t enjoy because you’re sick!).
We have six children and I have traveled extensively most of my life. I also have a weakened immune system and, at one point, was catching so many viruses that I was hospitalized for most of one four-year period of my life. After making some changes, that all stopped.
Here are a few of the natural strategies I use to stay healthy while traveling, especially during cold and flu season.
Pick a Window Seat
When I was young, I loved being able to sit in the window seat and watch the landscapes changing below as we made our way to our destination. Now, I choose it for a completely different reason — protection! If people on the plane are coughing around you, you can turn your face toward the protective barrier of that wall. Additionally, studies have shown that sitting in the aisle seat may increase your risk of contracting a stomach virus.
Let’s not forget the unfortunate soul who received an apology from Delta after discovering that his legs and feet were covered in dog feces left behind by a service dog on a previous flight. So, while you’re sitting in your superior window seat, wipe down the armrests, seat belt, tray and that window blind with a disinfectant wipe. Carry sanitizer to clean your hands before eating or touching your face. Avoid the bathroom, if you can, and keep your shoes on.
Next level tip: Wear a mask designed to guard you against airborne illnesses and allergens. It’s becoming more and more common (even celebrities are doing it!) so don’t feel embarrassed to pull one out of your carry-on. In fact, bring an extra in case your seatmate wants protection, too!
Make a conscious effort to stay hydrated on your next flight because the conditions inside an airplane can dry out the lining of our nose and throat, leaving us more vulnerable to the germs floating around the cabin. There is also evidence to suggest that staying hydrated can give our immune system a boost while helping our body fight off viruses.
You don’t need to drink a whole gallon of water (especially since that might send you to the bathroom that you’re trying to avoid!) but sipping throughout your journey can keep you from getting too parched which, in addition to increasing your risk of getting sick, can leave you feeling tired and irritable. Drink up!
Next level tip: Skip the ice as it’s not always handled in the cleanest ways. Ask for the bottle of water or can of soda and wipe the lid before opening to avoid contamination.
OnGuard Essential Oil
My collection of essential oils comes from several different companies but, when it comes to giving my immune system a boost, nothing compares to doTERRA’s OnGuard. You can use it daily for prevention this time of year but it can also be used after you’ve come down with something.
Again, whether you believe this claim is entirely up to you and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure about it myself until I tried it. My partner and all six kids had come down with something while I was away this summer. I immediately started using OnGuard to protect myself and help them. Not only did I never get sick (despite cleaning up after a house full of feverish people) but their symptoms stopped progressing. This has happened several times and I’m a believer. I do not travel without it.
Where to buy: Visit doTERRA’s site to learn more and search for a Wellness Advocate in your area. I’ve also had success at local massage studios and chiropractic offices.
Grape Seed Extract
A while back, someone told me that drinking eight ounces of 100% red grape juice could prevent the spread of a stomach virus if you’ve been exposed to someone who has been vomiting. We started doing it immediately and, of course, I can’t prove anything but I can say that no belly woes made the rounds in our house during that time.
It’s not convenient to find pure grape juice on the road, though, and, as someone who avoids sugar, drinking a bottle felt terrible. After reading a study about Grape Seed Extract and how it could be used to fight Norovirus, I picked up a bottle. Months later, when my significant other and I traveled to see my grandmother, he became violently ill. I immediately took my GSE (and OnGuard) and managed to escape unscathed. Now, I take it wherever I go.
Where to buy: You can find it in vitamin and supplement shops online or in-store. My go-to product is Nutribiotic’s Maximum GSE Liquid Concentrate which I order from Amazon.
Elderberry Syrup or Tablets
While I’ve tried Zicam to prevent and treat colds and I’ve been known to suck on Airborne lozenges during a flight, if I’m traveling and things are feeling a little sketchy (or I was in a crowded haunted house during Halloween Horror Nights), I find the nearest drug store and buy elderberry syrup or dissolvable tablets.
One early study showed that 93% of patients infected with the Influenza B virus given Sambucol, a black elderberry extract, were completely symptom-free within two days while those in the placebo group recovered in about six days. Since then, other studies have yielded similar results including a recent one suggesting that Sambucol can reduce cold duration and symptoms in air travelers.
Where to buy: Many health food, vitamin and supplement stores will carry some type of elderberry product. For my family, I keep it simple and buy the Sambucol Quick Dissolve Tablets or Sambucol Great Tasting Syrup from Walmart.
An Ounce of Prevention…
While you don’t need to wrap yourself in bubble wrap (unless you really want to), washing your hands before eating, touching your face and after touching germy surfaces (door handles, debit card machines and public bathrooms, for example) can go a long way toward preventing illness.
Wear a mask, cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow and throw away used tissues immediately. Of course, if you’re really ill, you may need to cancel your plans and stay home. It’s unfortunate that you’re under the weather but don’t selfishly spread that misery to others.