If summer travel is on your agenda, you have a lot to look forward to, but it's important not to forget about what air travel can mean for your health. The last thing you want is to end up coming down with an illness while you're away or when you return home. Fortunately, by keeping some immune health basics in mind, you can safely and in good health enjoy the 2021 summer travel season.
Transmission of Airborne Microbes
To understand why it's possible to fall ill after traveling in an airplane, you need to know how germs are transmitted in the air. When people sneeze, cough, laugh, sing, or shout, they release tiny droplets that contain germs. Research has shown that droplets can travel roughly 6 feet. If they get into your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could become ill from the germs. There is also the potential for droplets to land on surfaces and for you to transfer them to your eyes, nose, or mouth unknowingly.
In an airplane when you are sitting beside other people for long periods, there is a possibility that you can catch germs through airborne microbes. This was part of the reason behind some restrictions on air travel during COVID-19 outbreaks. It's important to know that airlines take steps to lower the risk of germ transmission during flights. Even before air travel COVID concerns, airplanes were being installed with state-of-the-art air filtration systems that exchange the air in the cabin with fresh outdoor air to reduce the spread of germs. Once air travel restrictions were lifted during the pandemic, airlines also adopted more rigorous cleaning and sanitation practices to protect passengers.
Immune System Health Basics
Before examining how you can support immune health before, during, and after air travel, you should know a bit about the immune system itself. The immune system refers to a number of cells, proteins, and organs that work together to protect you from germs and support healing following an injury. When your immune system is functioning at its best, many bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes can be eliminated from the body before they can make you ill; however, the immune system can become impaired by medical conditions, age, genetic factors, and elements of your lifestyle. This can leave you more vulnerable to microbes.
The Importance of Vaccinations
If you're planning to travel this summer, make sure that you're up to date on all of your vaccinations. The COVID-19 vaccine is just one of the many vaccinations recommended for all American adults. Depending on where you will be traveling to, you may also need additional vaccines for protection.
Eating Well for Immune Health
Your body needs a wide variety of minerals and vitamins for immune system function to take place properly. Eating a well-balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and lean meats can go a long way toward ensuring that you supply your immune system with the nutrients it needs to thrive.
Sleep and Your Immune System
Numerous studies have found that a lack of sleep can negatively impact your immune system. Before your trip, make sure you're getting at least eight hours of sleep every night. If you'll be experiencing a time change during your travels, slowly shift your bedtime by 20 to 30 minutes each evening before your trip to help your body adjust to the difference more gradually.
Hydration for Immune Health
Much of our body consists of water, and throughout the day, your body loses water due to sweat. Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your trip to replenish lost water can help keep your immune system functioning like a well-oiled machine. If your vacation plans include time spent outside under the hot sun or intense physical activity, increase your water intake accordingly, and limit alcohol intake. Not only does alcohol have the potential to dehydrate you, but researchers believe drinking alcohol can impair the immune system.
Key Immune Health Vitamins
Immune health supplements can bridge the diet gap and help to ensure that you're not deficient in any important immune system nutrients. Vitamin D3, vitamin C, selenium, and zinc are often recommended for immune support. You can also find vitamin C immune health multi-nutrient supplements that contain an assortment of nutrients that play a role in immune system function.
Preparing for a trip and air travel can both be stressful, but try to keep things in perspective along the way. Take deep breaths when you feel the tension rising and remind yourself of why you're subjecting yourself to the trials and tribulations of traveling in the first place. These simple steps can help you de-stress. Not only will they help you enjoy your trip more, but they may also support your immune system, as studies indicate stress can be detrimental to the immune system.