shutterstock_1723848115_2jo0GfW..jpeg (shutterstock_1723848115.webp)As the winter holidays approach, it's essential to prioritize your health as you travel to meet with friends and family. As everyone packs into cars, planes, kitchens, and dining rooms, the holidays can become a hotbed for germs. But don't let that dampen your spirits; staying healthy while traveling doesn't have to be complicated.

Here are five tried-and-true travel health tips from Genesis Medical Associates to help you enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season.

1. Pack Properly for Your Destination

December is known to be a cold month, so it's essential to pack warm clothing, especially if you'll be spending time outside. Dressing in layers is a smart way to stay comfortable while traveling. Start with thermal underwear, add a middle layer like a fleece for insulation, and finish with a waterproof outer layer to protect against snow or rain.

In addition to winter staples like hats, mittens, and scarves, make sure you have quality, waterproof shoes or boots if snow-based activities like skiing or snowman-building are part of your plan. Additionally, bring some sunscreen—yes, you can still get sunburned in the snow!

However, while Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas are sure to be cold late in the month, you might be headed somewhere warm for the holidays. In that case, lightweight, breathable clothing is a must, as are sun hats, sunglasses, and quality sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.  Still, remember to pack something a bit warmer for your return home.

By thinking ahead and packing smart, you can ensure that no matter where your holiday travels take you, you'll be prepared for any weather.

2. Prepare a Travel Health Kit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) always recommends that travelers bring a health kit with them, and the holidays are no exception. Think of this kit as a portable first aid kit, but beefed up to include everything you might need to stay healthy during your travels.

First and foremost, make sure you pack any prescription medications you and your family need. That might mean daily medications, but could also include an inhaler or EpiPen. Remember to bring enough for the entire journey and a little extra, just in case. You don't want to be stuck without your medication if there's a flight delay or you get stranded on the road because of bad weather.

An upset stomach can be a real nuisance when you're trying to enjoy your trip, so consider packing some diarrhea medicine and antacids. These can help provide quick relief and get you back to enjoying your holiday. Similarly, motion sickness medicine can be a lifesaver for those long car rides or turbulent flights.

Don't forget about over-the-counter remedies for common ailments. Cough drops, pain medicine like aspirin or ibuprofen, and any allergy medicine you might need should all find a home in your travel health kit.

Finally, remember to include hygiene and first-aid essentials. Hand sanitizer is a no-brainer—it's always handy to have when you're on the go. Bandages come in various sizes and are perfect for covering up any scrapes or cuts you might sustain during your adventures. And don't forget to pack any specific items you or your family members might need, like contact solution or glasses.

3. Talk to Your Doctor

Before you take off for your holiday travels, schedule a visit with your Genesis Medical Associates provider. Discussing your health, making sure you're up-to-date with your vaccinations, and getting any necessary prescriptions refilled can help ensure a smooth trip. Staying on track with your medication routine is crucial for maintaining good health while you're away.

Getting a flu shot or COVID-19 booster is especially important during the holiday season when you're likely to be in close contact with many people. It's an easy step to help keep you—and those around you—healthy.

Additionally, if you're someone who has trouble sleeping or tends to feel anxious while traveling, discuss this with your provider. They can share strategies to help you overcome travel anxiety and get enough sleep while you're away from home. Dealing with these issues head-on can make your travel experience much smoother and enjoyable.

In addition, if the thought of traveling causes you serious distress or may potentially cause a panic attack, consider consulting a mental health professional. They can provide tools and techniques to navigate these feelings, helping you to better manage your anxiety. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so don't hesitate to reach out for support.

4. Choose a Safe Travel Method

When planning your journey, it's crucial to consider the health and safety protocols of different modes of transportation. Whether you end up traveling by plane, train, or automobile, it's important to do your research and choose a method that aligns with your own comfort level and health needs.

Driving is a popular choice for many holiday travelers, but it's essential to take frequent breaks and avoid driving while drowsy. Flying may be more convenient for long distances, but according to the Journal of Travel Medicine, it can also increase your risk of picking up respiratory infections.

Regardless of your travel method, stick to a basic rule: hygiene first. Regular hand washing and avoiding touching your face can significantly lower your risk of contracting germs. Staying hydrated is also key, especially during long trips. Pack a refillable water bottle to ensure you're drinking enough fluids throughout your journey.
if possible, try to include some fresh fruits in your travel snacks, as they are packed with vitamins that can boost your immune system. Long trips can also take a toll on your body, causing stiffness and discomfort. Incorporate stretching into your travel routine, even if it's just a few minutes during a rest stop or in your airplane seat.

And let's not forget mental well-being. Travel can be stressful, and stress can weaken your immune response. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation to help you stay calm and centered during your journey.

5. Prepare Your Car for Cold Weather Travel

Traveling can also present some unique challenges. If you're planning to hit the road this winter, it's important to ensure your vehicle is well-prepared for the cold. These steps can help you avoid any potential winter travel hazards:

  • Check your antifreeze levels: Have the radiator system serviced, or if you have an antifreeze tester, you can check it for yourself. Add antifreeze as needed.
  • Check your tires: Cold temperatures can reduce tire pressure, so make sure to check and inflate them accordingly. Additionally, consider switching to snow tires if you're driving through areas with heavy snowfall.
  • Replace the windshield wiper fluid: Make sure it's a winter blend that can withstand freezing temperatures.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car: This should include items like blankets, flashlights, jumper cables, and non-perishable snacks in case you get stranded in a remote area.
  • Stay up-to-date on weather conditions: Check the forecast before leaving and be prepared to adjust your route or travel plans if necessary.

While these steps can make your winter journey safer, nothing is foolproof against severe weather. If a snowstorm is forecasted, the best advice is to avoid travel. It's okay to change plans—your safety and peace of mind are paramount. Your loved ones would much rather have you safe at home than risk dangerous weather conditions.

Happy Holidays from Genesis!

As you embark on your holiday travels, the team at Genesis Medical Associates wishes you a safe journey. Whether you're visiting family or exploring new places, remember to prioritize your well-being and make smart, healthy choices.
From all of us at Genesis, happy holidays and safe travels! Stay healthy and enjoy the season with your loved ones. Remember, taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give to those around you.

At Genesis Medical Associates, we are dedicated to providing families with access to primary care and improving the overall health and wellness of our patients. We offer a variety of services including primary care, gynecologic care, cardiology, telemedicine, and more. Visit one of our many Pittsburgh, PA locations or schedule an appointment online today.