6 Health Hacks for Business Travel During Cold & Flu Season

by Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer

Business travel can be frustrating enough without getting a cold or the flu thanks to germy airline passengers and other unavoidable situations. Here are a few travel health tips and hacks for you road warriors.

1. Wash Up. Keeping your hands clean is one of the most effective ways to keep germs from horning in on your trip. “Most of us only think to wash our hands after we use the restroom, but we should be washing our hands before we eat, after we cough or sneeze into our hands or blow our noses, and after we come in contact with surfaces in public places,” notes Jenny McClendon, a MeMD provider in Scottsdale, AZ. You probably can’t avoid a handshake, so try to clean your hands immediately after — or at least avoid touching your own eyes, nose and mouth until you can.

Pro Tip: Scrub hands for 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Dry thoroughly. A generous spritz of an alcohol-based disinfectant (60 percent or more) offers an added layer of protection.

2. Wipe Down. Bacteria covers pretty much everything on your route — door knobs; tray tables; seat belts; conference room and hotel tables, phones and chairs; and bathroom fixtures from the airport to the hotel to your destination. So wipe everything down. “Disinfectant wipes like Clorox® or Lysol® are stronger than antibacterial wipes and do a better job of killing bacteria,” explains Meg Roberts, president of Detroit-based Molly Maid. These EPA-registered disinfectants can kill up to 99.9 percent of germs.

Pro Tip: Stick a few travel packs in your carry-on and pick up some disinfectant spray on your way to the hotel or meeting.

3. Bundle Up. You may not like the idea of lugging a winter coat through the airport, but staying warm ramps up your ability to fight germs. “Always wear a jacket, gloves and hat,” says Joel Blass, medical director of Workmen's Circle MultiCare Center in the New York metro area. “Cold weather stresses the immune system, and a weakened immune system can make you more susceptible to those viruses.” It’s just as important to stay warm in the conference room or on the plant floor.

Pro Tip: If you just can’t drag along a coat, wear layers. A thermal foundation, a warm sweater or vest, and your business jacket may be enough to keep you and your immune system toasty.

4. Manage Stress. Stress is BFFs with cold and flu germs, and you encounter plenty of both when you’re on the road. Tyran Mincey, a chiropractic physician inMontclair,NJ, suggests adding breathing exercises to your to-do list to reduce stress. “Simply sit or stand with both hands covering the belly button, palms against the body, take in a deep belly breath and breathe out, and maintain that position for about 30 seconds breathing in and out repetitively,” he explains. “This can be done several times a day to increase circulation and promote lower stress levels.”

Pro Tip: Look for a yoga DVD or class for a stress-beating workout, or carry a small vial of calming essential oils like lavender or vanilla for in-room aromatherapy.

5. Get Sweaty. It’s hard to stay active on a business trip, but it’s a terrific way to outrun illness, says Christopher Hobbs, director of integrative science for Santa Cruz, CA–based Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems. “Regular physical activity can boost immune health, as exercise makes the body stronger, improves blood and nutrient circulation, and helps in flushing various toxins out of the body.”

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to wipe down gym equipment before and after using.

6. Stay Hydrated. Whether you’re on the plane or on site, drink a lot of liquids. Opt for tea for the maximum jolt of antioxidants, which help fight germs. Or substitute cinnamon for sugar in your morning joe. Your best bet is drinking water — and a lot of it — to keep your mucous membranes functioning correctly. Add some oomph with a supplement or homeopathic powder made for easy mixing. “Zinc helps to stimulate the immune system so that you can fight off the flu virus that you may encounter,” explains Liz Palmieri-Coonley, a wellness expert in Tampa, FL. “Fresh lemon can easily be squeezed into your water” for an easy dose of vitamin C.

Pro Tip: Hydrate your outside, too. “Hydrotherapy has been practiced in many cultures for at least 2,000 years to help maintain and restore health,”Hobbs says. “Get into a cool swimming pool or shower to help circulate surface immunity.”

Hand washing and surface wiping are the most important things you can do to increase your germ defense when on the road. Add any of these extra travel health tips to improve the odds of avoiding colds and flu this winter.

This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and should not be considered as offering individualized medical advice. 

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