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Healthy Holiday Travel Tips

Image: Warren Millar

EHS Corporate Care

You’ve packed your sweater or swimsuit and are ready for the holiday excursion. Yet, you brace yourself for everything from catching a cold on the plane to an upset stomach from dining out.  But there is some good news and a few easy precautions to ensure a healthy holiday season.

First, the good news – while most travelers believe their cold or virus was caused by close quarters, in actuality, sitting in an aircraft cabin is no more of a health threat than sitting in a movie theater, Metro or any other closed environment. Dr Mark Gendreau, an aviation medicine expert, states, “There is always an increased risk of infection whenever you enter a confined space, but an aircraft cabin is no worse an environment than the office you sit in every day.”

Consider that cabin air is generally refreshed about 15 times an hour versus less than 12 times an hour in an office building. However, most busy executives are well aware that sitting in a cramped airplane or car seat can cause pain and discomfort, even lead to a serious condition known as deep vein thrombosis, according to the National Institutes of Health.  Your neck and upper back can tighten up, and stiff legs can be agony.

If you can’t get up and walk around, try simple stretches like neck rolls.  For quick leg relief, place your fists on the outside of your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Push outward with your legs and inward with your arms for about 5-10 seconds.  This simple resistance exercise will flex muscles and tendons and improve blood flow to your arms and legs.

Holidays bring many opportunities to eat out.  The good news on this front is that food-borne illnesses such as E.coli, salmonella and listeria can happen just about anywhere – in fact, statistics from the FDA show you’re more likely to get sick from food prepared at home than from dining out in the United States.  So enjoy regional specialties and the new food carts that are cropping up – just employ a bit of common sense.  Ask the locals for suggestions, since a high-volume location generally means the food is fresh.  Of course, take a look and a sniff – are the condiments and garnishes bright, is the restaurant or cart sparkling clean?  Does the food smell mouthwateringly delicious or stale and greasy?

Seafood is a concern lately. If you’re in a coastal region, check first about the cleanliness of the local fresh and ocean water supplies. Don’t forget to consider the fish – mercury is found in high levels in certain fish, and farmed salmon may contain PCBs and other chemicals, so it pays to review the NRDC guidelines.

Finally, whether eating out or at home, pay close attention to basic hygiene practices. Wash your hands often – especially after handling raw meat – or watch for servers who handle both money and food.  It pays to pack hand sanitizer and a broad-spectrum gastrointestinal antibiotic such as Imodium.

Before you leave for your trip, check with Dr. Mamana at EHS Corporate Care to ensure you have your prescriptions filled and to suggest any additional precautions you may need to take.

John P. Mamana, M.D.

EHS Corporate Care



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