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Sharp Health News

Let’s talk turkey: Thanksgiving travel can make you sick

Nov. 19, 2019

Healthy holiday travel

According to the Automobile Association of America, more than 55 million people will travel during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday break. While a trip away might sound relaxing, with promises of family fun, the reality is that the holiday season also coincides with the time we are most likely to get sick — and nothing ruins a vacation like a cold or the stomach flu.

So how do you protect yourself and your loved ones from aches, pains, ills and ailments on the road? Here are five ways to trot through turkey time healthy and happy:

  1. Be prepared for potential problems. When packing your toiletry bag, be sure to always keep prescription medicines in their original packaging. You may also want to consider adding pain relief medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, antihistamine for allergic reactions, an anti-nausea medication for motion sickness, an antidiarrheal or anti-gas medication, and a decongestant. There is anecdotal evidence that taking zinc lozenges or high doses of vitamin C may shorten the duration of a cold, so you may want to throw in those supplements, too.

  2. Stay well-fed and hydrated. You may not be able to find healthy snacks and meals during your travels, especially if traveling with picky eaters. Pack a few hearty snacks such as granola bars, trail mix, bananas and string cheese to keep you going — and don’t forget the water. When traveling by plane, train or automobile, it’s important to maintain your hydration.

  3. Do research on your destination. Whether your travels take you to the local ski slopes or across the ocean, know what health dangers may await you. Can you drink the local water? Will the altitude make you sick? What's the weather forecast? Will you be able to find a doctor or pharmacy in a pinch? Is your insurance accepted in all locations? If you are traveling to a truly remote location, check the website, which is frequently updated and has travel recommendations for all areas of the world.

  4. Remember, calories do count on vacation. Don’t take a break from your healthy habits. Enjoy dining out and meals with loved ones, but beware that over-indulgence can result in both stomach troubles and weight gain. Take a walk to explore your location, go ice-skating with the kids or go dancing after a great dinner. Don’t drink more alcohol than you would at home, and always ask what’s in a meal before that first bite to avoid allergic reactions.

  5. Protect yourself. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses, even when in the snow. If you are around someone who is sick, keep your distance and wash your hands frequently, especially after being exposed or shaking hands with someone who is ill. Winter weather can be extremely drying and complimentary hotel lotions don’t always do the trick, so bring a good moisturizer. Learn what a bedbug looks like and check your temporary sleeping spot for any signs. And, if there might be vacation activities other than long walks, don’t forget the other kind of protection to avoid a sexually transmitted disease or unplanned addition to the family.

Even if you take all of the above precautions, not all trips go as planned. According to Dr. Kathlyn Ignacio, an internal medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, it’s important to recognize when grandma’s chicken soup and your supply of store-bought medications aren’t doing the trick.

“If you are traveling and become injured, and you cannot move or control your pain, you should probably seek medical attention,” says Dr. Ignacio. “Furthermore, an illness that is incapacitating or involves a fever beyond 24 hours, and is not relieved with over-the-counter products, clearly requires a visit to a local clinic or doctor’s office.”

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