It's been an overwhelming few weeks for most of the world as the coronavirus outbreak — now officially classified as a pandemic — continues to escalate globally. Many of us have found ourselves postponing or canceling travel plans to avoid getting or transmitting the disease, and for some, this wasn't even a choice as new travel restrictions are being enforced by both the U.S. and foreign governments. However, there are a number of reasons some people must proceed with their trips right now, such as family emergencies or an essential work commitment. So for any of our readers who will be on the move in the coming weeks, we've sought out professional advice on how to do so as safely as possible.
"While ideally, we should all be canceling any unnecessary trips," says Jill Grimes, MD, an author and urgent care physician at The University of Texas. But, there is a list of essentials you should have in your carry on or suitcase if you're unable to pull the plug on your plans. To start, she says, "pick up a travel-size hand sanitizer," if you can find one (many stores are restocking but most are sold out at the moment). This should be applied after touching communal surfaces, especially as you may absentmindedly be touching your eyes, nose or mouth. There is, however, a right and a wrong way to do this: "Remember it’s important to wash and rub your hands with the sanitizer for a full 20 seconds. Don’t just splash and dash!" Dr. Grimes explains. Other products to include in your carry-on are mini-packs of tissues to use and dispose of immediately, or to hand over to someone sharing your row in the plane. Disinfecting wipes should also be used to sanitize your surroundings particularly upon entering a hotel room or place of business for desk tops, bedside tables, sinks, and doorknobs.
When flying or taking the bus or the train, inspect your seat before sitting down. “Use an antibacterial towelette to wash your seat, the table attached to the seat and hand rests, and be sure to re-wash your hands,” says Harry Oken, M.D., a practicing internist and medical advisory board member for Persona Nutrition. “If you are flying, turn the overhead air nozzle all the way up and direct slightly away from you to create a laminar air flow away from you.”
Dr. Oken also advises being careful about what you’re eating when you're on the go. “Select peeled vegetables and fruit instead of unpeeled, and cooked meat instead of uncooked, unless you feel 100 percent confident in the food preparation,” he explains. The right food could even be an ally in the fight against disease, Dr. Oken says, with certain nutrients like Curcumin possibly containing anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. But no matter what you decide to consume, always ask for your drink without ice and be sure to wash your hands before and after eating. “It’s better to use antibacterial soap instead of gel hand sanitizers. However, if you don’t have the option for soap and water, you should use what you have available.”
Pay attention to sleep as well, as it plays a crucial role in refreshing the immune system. If you're sleep depleted, you’re much more likely to get sick. So consider traveling with your own pillow or pillow case, and try immunity-boosting droplets for good measure. Ahead, we've rounded up a list of products to pack based on the recommendations of Dr. Grimes and Dr. Oken. We've also included some of our own suggestions, like self-cleaning water bottles and a portable phone charger to keep your appliances alive at all times. While it's best to avoid travel altogether during these times of uncertainty, we recognize that not everyone has that option, so we hope this list comes in handy for anyone that is taking a trip in the coming months.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.
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