The festive holidays are around the corner. The respect for traveling is high. Not only because of the uncertainty in planning due to weekly changing lockdown rules, quarantines and restrictions that differ from region to country but also the fear of catching the virus (and potentially passing it on to others) is in our minds. Taking the risk of a Christmas holiday with our loved ones to escape the (un)real world we are facing this year or staying safe and sound at home? That’s the question of the season.
I spoke with Harvard trained Doctor Anna Erat (MD/PhD) in Zurich, Switzerland and received her suggestions on how to travel as safe as possible, this holiday season.
“The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19 is to stay at home and postpone travel.” she says. “However, avoiding travel is not possible for everyone particularly during the upcoming holiday season.”
“Apart from contacting your local or state health department to inform yourself about local quarantine requirements, travel restrictions and testing, there are five points that I would like to address when travelling during COVID-19:
Clearly you should not travel if you or your travel companions are sick. For a healthy immune system during the dark winter months, your vitamin D levels should be sufficient. You might want to supplement vitamin C and Zink as well. The intake of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are a must (5 a day rule). Sleep at least 7-8 hours every night. Depending on the region you are traveling to, but try to keep yourself warm. Particularly also in warm and southern destinations, watch out for the air conditioning. Always have a scarf on you to avoid catching a cold that could weaken your immune system.
Stack up on masks and disinfectants. Visit your GP (general practitioner) and assure that chronic diseases are optimally treated before departure and update your immunizations including the flu vaccination. For higher risk groups the COVID-19 vaccination will be available soon. Make sure that you bring along a sufficient supply of your medications.
Check that your travel and health insurances are valid. Move your legs even if only in your seat, stretch and drink enough water, avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks/smoking before and during flights. Check with your doctor if you need blood thinners and compression socks during longer flights.
Wear a face-mask – and make sure you wear it correctly. Try to avoid touching the face and the mask during the travels and keep a distance of at least 6 feet to people around you, if possible. Use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) and wash your hands at least every few hours, especially after you touched something like a door or cutlery at a restaurant. Arrived at the hotel, or the house you are staying in, air your room (which is not the same as turning your AC on full blast). Exchanging the air in your room is key.Recent studies have shown that regular mouth wash can kill the virus and keep a possible viral load low.
Yoga in the room or TRX are easy options and might be better than going to the busy hotel gym. A towel can make a great yoga mat. Don’t forget your running shoes. Running or even fast walking in fresh air and open spaces will boost your cardiovascular system, your immune system – and your overall well-being.
Bring along your favorite books, pod-casts and music for „me-time“ and relaxation. Get enough sleep, drink lots of water. Minimize alcohol consumption and smoking. Think positive. And finally, don’t forget to keep in touch with your loved ones. Several studies show the importance of social connections on mental wellbeing, especially at times of uncertainty.
Anna Erat (MD/PhD) studied and interned in medicine at University of Zurich Medical School and Harvard Medical School. After graduating, she conducted post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School in the fields of inflammation and metabolism. In parallel she received a PhD in epidemiology from University of Basel (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute). For her role as a medical director, she attended courses both at Harvard Business School and INSEAD, recently graduating from the International Directors Program at Fontainebleau. Clinically she is focusing on preventive, sports and internal medicine, and takes care of top athletes ranging from national ice hockey team players to formula 1 drivers and world class ironman triathletes. She is a reviewer and peer for iQM, a clinical lecturer at the University of Zurich Medical School and she leads the Grand Rounds in the Hirslanden Clinic.
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