How to stay healthy and germ-free during holiday travel

If you are thinking about traveling during the holidays, but you’re worried about staying healthy, I have one piece of advice: Stay home.  Don’t even think about heading to an airport or spending hours in a tiny space sharing the air with people who are sick.

However, I know that’s not a practical solution, so if you’re determined to take a trip to visit the relatives or just get away to a different climate over the holidays, here is my best advice to stay healthy while you travel.

• Hand sanitizer wipes – Every surface you touch in the airport, in the bathroom, and on the plane is a potential transmission point for germs.  As much as you can, wipe down every surface you are going to touch before you put your hand on it.  That includes door handles, paper towel dispensers, and even your chair arms in the waiting area and on the plane.  I prefer wipes over liquid or gel sanitizer, because once the liquid evaporates, the benefits are gone. My favorite wipes are Herban Essentials, which come in amazing fragrances such as lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, and even peppermint for the holidays.  Each wipe is individually wrapped so they are easy to carry.  Bring along some extras to share – I always have people ask if they can have one

• Protect your nose – I like to dab a little Neosporin ointment in my nose to help fight off bacteria and other germs.  If you tend to get sick easily, give yourself some extra protection by wearing a mask you can pick up at a drug store.  If you are sick and absolutely have to travel, please keep your germs to yourself.  Buy a mask and wear it for the duration of your travels. Everyone around you will thank you.

• Boost your immunity – I like to take EmergenC as a precaution before I travel and while I’m away from home.  It provides a big dose of vitamin C, as well as other nutrients, to help boost your immune system.  It comes in a variety of flavors as a powder in single serve packets.  Just pour a packet into a 16-ounce water bottle, shake well, and you’ll be boosting your immunity while you stay hydrated.

• Hydrate - Make sure you drink plenty of water while you are away from home.  You can’t take water through the security checkpoint at the airport, but once you pass the detectors, you can pick up a bottle and get started on it in the waiting area, before taking it with you on the plane.  If you bring your water with you, you won’t have to wait for the flight attendants to get everyone settled or start their drink service.  If you forget to pick up a bottle – or if you finish it off – just ask the flight attendants for more.  Some will even give you the entire bottle if you ask.

• Pack a snack – Your fellow passengers aren’t the only ones who can pass on germs while you travel.  Flight attendants can easily pass germs from one person to another.  So if possible, pack your own snacks for the trip so you won’t be tempted to eat food that was touched by someone who might be sick.  Just remember, the 3-ounce TSA rule for liquids applies to things like salad dressing.  Sunflower seeds, nuts, and other dry items are a good choice.

• BYOM – Bring your own magazine. Don’t handle the items in the seat pocket in front of you unless you have to.

Once you land, don’t think you’re safe from germs just because you made it through your flight.  Be as careful in your destination airport as you were at your departure area.  Use your wipes to clean bathroom door handles, or open them with a tissue. As soon as your luggage comes off the carousel, wipe off the handles. Also, don’t forget to wash or wipe your hands often, especially after you touch a public surface like the handrail on an escalator.

Staying healthy isn’t easy when you’re traveling, because you can’t control everything in your environment.  You can be your own best health advocate by thinking ahead before you touch anything and consciously working to stay as germ-free as possible while you are away from home.

Michelle King Robson (pronounced robe-son) is one of the nation's leading women's health and wellness advocates. She is the Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest-growing and largest social health companies dedicated exclusively to women's health and wellness.  In 2011 EmpowHER reached more than 60 million women onsite and through syndication expects to reach more than 250 million in 2012.