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7 ways to keep illness from spoiling your summer travel

July 2, 2020 (Updated: August 3, 2021)
Lily Moran

It’s summertime and that can only mean one thing: travel!

Regardless of whether you’re planning a low-key, local “staycation,” a road trip to a different part of the country, or a big international trip, travel can wreak havoc on your body.

It can strain your immune system, mess with your sleep, and even cause you to pack on a few extra pounds.

That’s not to say traveling isn’t worth it…it is. The stress release you get from stepping away from your day-to-day responsibilities—and the quality time that vacationing allows you to spend with your loved ones—makes it time well spent.

But still, it’s good to prepare yourself for certain possibilities before and during travel.

Here’s our advice on how you can stay healthy this summer

Bolster Your Immune System

Nothing ruins a vacation like getting sick. If you lead a healthy lifestyle—eat a balanced diet, take health-protective supplements, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, keep stress levels in check—then you have an excellent foundation that automatically fosters strong immunity. This can protect you from a lot of ailments that affect many people when they travel.

If you’re traveling by air (or any public transportation for that matter), sitting in tight quarters for several hours exposes you to viruses, bacteria, and other germs that could turn fun into misery. That’s why it’s always a good idea to take some extra precautions before you begin your journey.

Now, when most people think of immune support, the first things that come to mind are zinc and vitamin C. Both have been shown to support the immune system—but there are better alternatives.

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Here are our recommendations for bolstering your immune system and protecting against illness when traveling:

  • Elderberry: While the flowers and leaves have been used to treat pain and inflammation, it’s the berries that carry the most important immune benefits. Studies show it to be a powerful ingredient that speeds up recovery from flu-like symptoms. In some cases, elderberry has also demonstrated the ability to to prevent the flu. Found in most grocery store pharmacy or natural foods aisles and online retailers, make sure you’re getting real elderberry extracts and use as directed.
  • Curcumin: in addition to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin has the unique ability to activate your body’s frontline defenders so they’re ready, willing and able to protect you against anything that may try to invade your body. Known to play a direct role in preventing the human flu virus from replicating in the body, curcumin may also protect you against the flu. A good daily support dose is 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day, in divided doses. If you have too much at one time, it may cause stomach discomfort.
  • Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, keep harmful bacteria in check and prevent them from gaining a stronghold—which can lead to any number of illnesses and infections. In fact, up to 80% of your immune system strength comes courtesy of the beneficial bacteria in your gut. So the fewer friendly bugs you have in your system, the more prone you are to getting sick. Research confirms the power of probiotics in decreasing risk of illness. In one study, researchers gave 30 rugby players either probiotics or placebo every day for four weeks. During probiotic treatment, the players never experienced any sign of upper respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, compared to 6 in the placebo group. For best results, start taking the probiotic at least a month before you travel. Look for a product that contains a blend of different strains of bacteria, with at least 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per dose. (This refers to the number of live and active bacteria found in each serving.) Newport Natural Health, for example, offers a probiotic formula made up of six unique strains of beneficial bacteria that’s microencapsulated to ensure all 10 billion CFUs can survive your powerful stomach acids and arrive safely in the intestines, where they do their most important work. You can learn more about this top-notch probiotic here.
  • Quail egg extract: This unique ingredient has, for decades, shown to be an allergy-fighting powerhouse. And since its discovery in 1967, studies have proven it to help battle indoor, outdoor, and seasonal, and year-round allergy symptoms. It’s also improved lung function and clearer air passages in those who struggle wit asthma. If you’re going to be in close quarters while traveling, this ingredient may be for you. Suggested dosage is 84mg of standardized quail egg powder daily.
  • Echinacea: One of the more commonly sold immune supporting supplements in the US and Europe, Echinacea is one of those nutrients to have on hand while traveling. Clinical trials show that echinacea extracts can shorten the duration and severity of colds and other upper respiratory infections (URIs) if taken as soon as symptoms arise.
  • Cloth face coverings: The novel coronavirus pandemic reminded us how easily we transfer viruses from one human to another. According to the Centers for Disease Control, face coverings provide a simple barrier to keep respiratory droplets you produce—whenever you cough, sneeze, talk, or raise your  voice—from traveling into the air and onto other others. Depending on the form of travel you use, or on your destination, the use of a cloth face covering may be required—especially in public shared spaces. Check the local health guidelines in the jurisdiction where you plan to vacation.

Prevent Jet Lag

If you are traveling across time zones, jet lag can be a real concern. There are two things I recommend to alleviate jet lag symptoms: The hormone melatonin and a homeopathic remedy called No Jet Lag.

Produced by the pineal gland in the brain, melatonin regulates your sleep-wake cycle. As an added bonus, it has also been shown to strengthen immunity.

You can take supplemental melatonin to help re-regulate your sleep cycle while you travel across time zones. The usual dose is 1 mg taken half an hour before your preferred bedtime. There is a fast-acting option, which helps you fall asleep quickly, and a time-release option that allows you to stay asleep through the night. So depending on your sleep issues while traveling, choose accordingly.

If you can’t or don’t want to use melatonin, then try one of our favorite homeopathic remedies for travel: “No Jet Lag.” You can find this product in most pharmacies, in stores like Target, and online.

No Jet Lag combines five homeopathic herbs, including chamomile and Arnica Montana, to help alleviate symptoms of jet lag such as muscle soreness, sleepiness or sleeplessness, irritability, and anxiety. You take one tablet at takeoff, then again every two hours during the flight, and again after landing.

I hope these suggestions keep you safe, happy, and most importantly healthy as you embark on your summer travel plans. Bon voyage!


Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Updated: July 2, 2020
Originally Published: June 14, 2018

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