This summer, the world is your oyster. According to a new survey by TheVacationer, 81% of Americans are returning to the skies, roads, seas, and rails this summer, and the U.S. government recently announced lifting the COVID-19 testing requirements for air travelers entering the country. But even with many of us feeling comfortable again and looking to make up for lost vacation time, protection against illness is still top of mind. In preparation for the busy travel season, we’ve pulled together a list of tips to help summer travelers support their immune health.
The last thing you want before or during a big trip is to start feeling under the weather, which is why protection against germs is of the utmost importance. To prevent sickness from spreading, you must attack germs before they even have a chance to enter your body. Protecting yourself against illness shouldn’t be over-complicated, especially when travelers are already anxious about catching flights, waiting in crowded security lines, and organizing travel itineraries. While packing disinfectant wipes, masks, and other illness-preventative products are great first resorts, products like oral antiseptic mouth rinses bring illness prevention to a whole new level while also helping take the worry out of traveling.
Some of us may remember learning about the food pyramid in our early years of education. If not, the rule of thumb is to incorporate a healthy balance of grains, fruits, protein, fats, and sugars (that means say yes to the occasional brownie). In fact, eating a balanced diet containing nutrient-dense foods plays a vital role in boosting immunity, which helps to fight off pesky infections and viruses. Travelers should consider upping their intake of foods that boost immunity before traveling – because the goal is to catch flights, not colds. So, once you’ve gotten your vacation travel locked in, head to the grocery store and stock up on the following immune-boosting foods to prepare you and your family for a season of healthy travel.
- Blueberries: This sweet, tart fruit contains an antioxidant called flavonoid, which plays an essential role in the immune defense system. This was found in a 2016 study by the National Library of Medicine.
- Turmeric: This yellow spice contains a property called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory elements that help support immune system health.
- Kale: This leafy vegetable, sometimes called the king of greens, is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which can help boost immunity when you need it the most.
- Garlic: Although this vegetable probably doesn’t work to ward off vampires like legend claims, it does contain compounds that work to boost the disease-fighting response of certain white blood cells in our bodies.
- Oranges: This citrus fruit is rich in Vitamin C, which helps to strengthen the immune system.
- Dark Chocolate (our favorite): While best to eat in moderation, dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants as it is made from seeds of cacao trees which work to boost immunity.
If you don’t love some of these foods on their own, look to incorporate the spices and vegetables into stir-fries or add the fruits into smoothies to get the most out of these immune-boosting foods.
In an interview for Eat This, Not That, Scott Kaiser, Co-Founder, and CEO at Determined Health, notes, “the best and most effective way to protect oneself from viral illnesses is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.” Before summer travel plans, look to maintain a healthy lifestyle and improve your overall wellness by exercising daily, promoting good sleep hygiene, and practicing self-care.
Regular physical activity plays a vital role in boosting immunity and helps to improve your daily wellness routine. Exercising for just two and a half hours per week in anticipation of travel can positively impact your immune health. As Healthline states, “exercise increases the recruitment and circulation of the immune system’s best defensive cells.” We recommend starting small: try setting a goal to walk for 30 minutes daily or walk up and down the stairs a few times to get your heart rate pumping.
- Sleep Hygiene
Improving your overall sleep hygiene is one of the best ways to boost your immune system in anticipation of travel. In an article about strengthening immunity, University of Colorado (UC) Health shares, “when we sleep, our bodies produce a protein called cytokines, which target infection and inflammation, creating an immune response.” Prioritizing sleep allows your body to fight off viruses and infections. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should aim for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night to give the body a chance to rest and recover properly. Set yourself up for success by creating a sleep routine such as refraining from screens an hour before bedtime (the late-night TV show binge or TikTok doom scrolling watching can wait) and going to bed and waking up around the same time every day.
- Practice Self-Care
It’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed when planning a summer adventure on top of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. When life starts to feel chaotic, it is important to check in with yourself for a few moments during the day. Whether taking a screen break, practicing breathing exercises, or doing something that brings joy – your body and mind deserve a break. When we forget to take a moment for ourselves, our immune systems suffer the consequences, and our bodies become more susceptible to getting sick. According to bodysoulsalem.com, “regular self-care practices can decrease cortisol levels, giving your body a break from this inflammatory response and leading to a healthier, more balanced immune system.” One way to do this would be to try journaling or doing a guided meditation to start the day instead of instantly reaching for the phone after rolling out of bed. Prioritizing self-care before traveling will strengthen your immune system and allow you to stay present and energized during your travel adventure.
Have a happy hour to attend, or looking to relax with a glass of wine after a stressful week? Although these alcohol consumption scenarios can sometimes be hard to pass up, future travelers should look to hydrate their bodies to support their immunity ahead of summer travel plans. Alcohol consumption directly affects the immune system; according to Mayo Clinic, “alcohol can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections.” Since the body is nearly made up of 60% water and is found in every cell of our body, it is essential to hydrate your body properly. Especially while traveling when the body is most vulnerable to catching germs, replacing alcohol with H2O can help reduce the risk of catching a cold. Your immune system will thank you when it’s working the hardest in a packed airport or a fully booked plane.
Pro tip: Calculate your recommended daily water intake by your weight and minutes of daily exercise.
Life transitions, meeting deadlines, or going through periods of uncertainty are some of the biggest contributors to stress. While most stressful scenarios we face are out of our control, it is important to find ways to minimize them, especially when gearing up for a big trip. Because on top of daily life stressors, planning a trip can be pretty exhausting, from mapping out travel logistics, booking hotels, and dealing with air travel. When we are stressed, our immune system takes a hit because it reduces our system’s response to fighting off germs and increases inflammation. When looking to reduce stress, travelers should consider activities such as picking up a hobby, mindful meditation, or getting outside for fresh air. In fact, a study by Translational Psychiatry suggests that mindful meditation can boost the immune system through its restorative powers on the body and mind. Additionally, going for a walk in the sunshine gives the mind a chance to relax and provides a healthy dose of Vitamin D, which has been proven to boost your immune system. Try to set aside time before traveling to focus on reducing stress through various stress-relief tactics.
As summer travel ramps up this year, prioritizing your immune health by implementing any or all of the tactics we’ve outlined can help keep your mind at ease and body protected against harmful germs and bacteria. Bon voyage!