Staying Safe & Healthy During Holiday Travel

Flights, long drives, and train rides pose potential risks as you head "over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house." Everyone deserves a memorable holiday season without the fear of travel dangers and aggravated health problems. Learn unique and easy-to-use tips for staying healthy during the holidays.

Move to prevent clots when you travel

Prolonged sitting increases one’s risk of a blood clot, also known as a thrombosis, typically lodged in the lower legs. Deep vein thromboses (DVT) pose a serious danger of breaking off and traveling back to the lungs. When these tiny clots get stuck in lung capillaries, they become pulmonary embolisms and can lead to death.

Movement is critical for preventing blood clots. Here are 3 tips to avoid hazardous thromboses:

  • Walk every two hours when driving or flying.
  • Pump your ankles often when sitting on a long flight or drive.
  • Wear compression socks to help keep your blood circulating.

People most at risk for blood clots from prolonged sitting are tall or obese individuals, smokers, people on hormone therapy, or someone who recently had surgery.

The most common signs and symptoms of a DVT in the leg include leg swelling, redness, warmth, and pain.

Reduce travel risks with sleep and rest

Adequate sleep is essential to staying alert when you drive. It also boosts your mood and immune system during holiday stress.

These tips can help protect precious sleep:

  • For airplane travel, walk throughout the airport as much as possible since exercise can help you sleep better when you arrive.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol because both hamper sleep.
  • Bring lavender essential oil and add a drop to your pillow for sleep support.
  • Always pull over and take a nap when needed during a long drive.
  • Instead of driving through the night, allocate funds for a hotel stay where you can rest on a quality mattress.
  • Eat high protein and fiber snacks and stay hydrated to stave off dangerous driving fatigue.

Boost your mood for safer travel

Eating and sleeping well not only boost your immunity but also supercharge your mood. Keeping a positive mood helps you enjoy the holidays, but it also helps you make better, safer decisions.

Your body uses nutrients in your food, like tryptophan from turkey meat, to produce happy, calm, and positive mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine — another reason a whole-food diet is essential.

Sleep scientists believe that sleep can directly improve your mental wellness by reducing anxiety, depression, and harmful ruminations. One way to improve your sleep while traveling is to bring essential oils targeted for improving sleep. One study published in 2013 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that an essential oil blend of lavender, neroli, and Roman chamomile improved the sleep quality of intensive care unit patients compared to conventional nursing interventions.

You can also pack other essential oils to help you ground mentally during stressful times. The essential oils of cedarwood, manuka, bergamot, or galbanum are just a few that may help calm nervous tension.

Consider packing weather-appropriate clothes to get outside as often as possible for both your physical and mental health. Be sure to adjust appropriately to hot or cold climates you’re unaccustomed to.

Plan ahead for your medical needs

If you have any acute or chronic health conditions, be sure you know how to manage your prescriptions and home treatment plans. Discuss travel plans with your healthcare provider and inform your travel partners of your health concerns. It’s important that friends and family know what signs to watch for should your health condition decline.

If you’re traveling to a different country, set an appointment with your provider or a travel health specialist a month before leaving. They can inform you about destination-specific information, medicines, and vaccines.

If you are pregnant, disabled, or older, visit the CDC or the U.S. government travel website for more specific information and advice.

Travel wisely with prescriptions

Following several smart tips for traveling safely with prescription medications is crucial.

  • Bring enough medication to cover you for longer than your trip in case of unexpected delays.
  • Know if your medications interact negatively with any specific foods.
  • Carry a description of your medical condition and a complete list of your prescription medications, their generic names, and why you take them. This significantly reduces confusion and speeds up your care if you visit a doctor or healthcare facility during travel.
  • Travel with your medications in their original, labeled containers.
  • If you are taking medications that are not permitted in all countries, check with the foreign embassy of the country you're visiting to see what is allowed and how to follow their requirements for bringing the medications.
  • Pack medications in your carry-on luggage to keep them close at hand.
  • If your medications require refrigeration, plan ahead to ensure their safe transport.
  • Consider bringing extra medical supplies like diabetes test strips, hearing aid batteries, or incontinence supplies.

Tune in to new symptoms

It's easy to ignore worsening signs and symptoms during the distractions and fun of holiday travel. Inform your travel partners of your health concerns early in your trip so they can help support you later if you experience changes in your health. Don't ignore signs and symptoms, even if it means a frustrating trip to the hospital.

If you’re traveling with someone with health risks, ask about their health condition, if appropriate, to learn more. Most people are grateful that you care enough to ask questions and learn how to help them. Watch for concerning signs of health issues as you travel. People with health conditions often speak up too late to try and save loved ones the trouble of a hospital visit.

Know before you go

Always do your best to plan for the unexpected. Many resources exist to help you learn essential first-aid skills like CPR and bleeding control. Resources are also available to help you build a first-aid kit for any trip.

If you are traveling out of the country, research safety tips for the unique environment.

Helpful travel resources

Many travel resources are available to help you prepare for safety in different climates and cultures. See these sites for other special considerations. Visit the CDC's website for travel advice on animal safety, preventing bug bites, general safety, and traveling with health conditions. The U.S. Department of State (USDS) and the Association for International Road Travel offer country-specific tips and resources to drive safely abroad if you plan to drive a rental car. The USDS also offers advice on medical safety, evacuation, and travel health insurance.

Preparing ahead of time with realistic, achievable, and common-sense plans is the best way to travel safely.

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