You might not want to travel right now, but for whatever reason, you have to. If that's the case, heed the advice of Dr. Jeff Goad, Chapman University’s pharmacy department chair and founding member of the Pharmacists Professional Group Section of the International Society of Travel Medicine on how to not get sick—or at least try really, really hard not to.
How to Not Get Sick While Traveling in the Age of Coronavirus
1. Drink plenty of water and rest up
One of Dr. Goad’s best tips for staying healthy while traveling is to keep your immune system strong. This means that while on the move—and every other day of the year—people should make sure they’re drinking plenty of water and getting a good amount of sleep. These two things together work to help support the immune system as it fights off any illness that you might come in contact with. And, sorry, but it’s best to avoid alcohol while traveling, too, as it’s dehydrating and isn’t going to do your immune system any favors.
2. Wash your hands as soon as possible
We know that traveling in cramped trains and busses means sharing the air and touching the same germ-y surfaces as everyone else around us, so Dr. Goad says it’s important to do what we’ve been hearing so often ever since the start of the coronavirus spread—wash your hands! Get some soap on your palms and scrub away at your fingers and backs of your hands for 20 seconds. “The virus is likely to be transmitted by respiratory droplets that can be carried on your hands, so it’s best to wash frequently and avoid touching your face,” Dr. Goad says. He adds that using hand sanitizer is fine in a pinch when you’re not near a sink to wash your hands, but to scrub away with soap and water as soon as you can.
3. Get your flu shot
Dr. Goad adds that this is the time to get your flu shot if you haven’t yet—the flu is a respiratory illness that will make you more susceptible to others, like coronavirus. Also, don’t buy into the marketing of non-FDA regulated vitamins and supplements that claim they can boost your immune system when there’s no research out there that actually supports this. To add more immune-supporting vitamin C to your system, order an orange juice and hold the Champagne.
4. Hop on a flight instead of a train or bus
This might come as a surprise, but flying is actually a safer option when it comes to your health. Dr. Goad says that because of air filtration systems, planes cycle out germ-y air through filters and bring in fresh air. “Airplanes recirculate 10 to 50 percent of cabin air, mixing with outside air and using a filter that takes out 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses,” he says. Airplane employees are also taking the potential spread of the virus seriously since the planes are crossing country and state lines, so they’ve stepped up their cleaning and disinfecting practices.
5. Carry disinfectant wipes
Even though the people who are working your flight (or train or bus ride) are doing everything they can to make sure it’s sanitized, there’s no harm at all in doubling down and wiping your seat, tray table, arm rest, seat belt, entertainment unit and any other frequently touched surfaces with a disinfectant wipe on your plane, train or automobile.
5. Leave the masks for the sick
This has become a hot-button issue in the age of coronavirus, but wearing a mask while traveling is not a great idea if you’re healthy. If you’re feeling sick or have any of the symptoms of the virus (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) then yes, wearing a mask is a good idea because it will help prevent other people from getting whatever it is you have. But if you feel fine, putting on a face mask can actually get you sick. “You’ll end up touching your face more as you constantly adjust your mask, and many people don’t know that they’re ineffective when wet,” Dr. Goad says. He adds that when we, healthy people, buy up face masks out of fear, we take them out of the hands of the health care professionals who really do need them as they try to help sick people.
6. Stretch your legs
Dr. Goad says that while traveling, it will help your immune system to stay sharp and alert of any potential risks around you (like that guy coughing four rows away) if you stretch your legs. That might mean getting up or even just spreading out for a moment or two to get your blood flowing.
There are plenty of things we know to do, like washing our hands and sneezing into our arms, so keep calm and use the knowledge you already have.