5 Tips for a Safer, Healthier Spring Break
So much of what it takes to make any getaway successful is in the planning. That includes planning to stay healthy.
As we’re all aware, we’re in a new era of travel thanks to a highly transmissible virus—COVID—that’s not seasonal and is still very much in circulation. Plus, there are plenty of other viruses and food-, water- and insect borne diseases out there that can throw a wrench in your plans.
That’s not to say you should stay home. But you do have to acknowledge that you’re taking a calculated risk when traveling and take precautions to minimize the risk of getting sick.
1. Wear a mask
If you take public transportation to get to and from a destination, you’re likely to end up spending long periods of time in places that are crowded or poorly ventilated, increasing the chance for exposure to any number of viruses. A good quality, well-fitted mask or respirator is recommended for anyone two years of age or older when in transportation hubs and on planes, trains, buses, and other closed conveyances. While many planes provide excellent air filtration and circulation, there’s no guarantee those systems will be on while you’re on the ground prior to or after take-off. Wearing a mask is a small inconvenience compared to spending your whole vacation sick in bed.
You should also be aware that regulations regarding the wearing of masks vary dramatically from country to country. Be sure to follow any requirements and recommendations of the authorities where you are traveling, including those of operators of public transportation or transportation hubs, and pack the necessary mask accordingly.
2. Be current on vaccines
It goes without saying that you should be up to date on your COVID vaccines—this includes your primary shot and boosters. While there’s talk of relying on immunity gained from having had COVID, studies show that vaccines provide better and longer lasting protection than any immunity gained through having had the illness. At this point, vaccines are still widely available and free. Make an appointment now so you’re ready come spring break.
In addition, if you’re traveling abroad, be sure to find out what vaccines are required to enter your destination and schedule your shots well in advance as some vaccines are administered in a series over the course of a few weeks.
3. Be proactively protective
If COVID taught us nothing else, it was how important sanitization can be. Be sure to carry hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol with you and use it frequently.
4. Eat and drink wisely
If you are traveling to an area where the safety of water or food is questionable, make smart choices. When possible, opt for sealed beverages including water, soda, and juices. To be extra cautious, choose carbonated beverages as the presence of bubbles indicate that the bottle or can has been properly sealed, and because ice is typically made from tap water.
On the food front, remember that high heat kills dangerous germs, so food that is cooked thoroughly and served hot is usually safe. If possible, you should avoid consuming raw foods. If enjoying raw fruits or vegetables, when possible, peel them yourself or wash them with bottled water as not all tap water maybe safe to consume.
5. Keep bugs at bay
Mosquito- and/or tick-borne diseases exist the world over. Protect yourself by treating your clothing and backpack with the insecticide permethrin. Available in liquid, powders, and sprays, use it to treat your clothing, backpack, and gear. Permethrin should NOT be applied directly to your skin. Permethrin-treated fabrics should effectively repel insects for 40 days or five washings. Be sure to follow the package instructions carefully to get the full benefit of the repellent.
One last tip. If you’re traveling abroad, consider enrolling in the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP). A free service available to U.S. citizen and nationals traveling and living abroad. STEP connects you to the U.S. consulate or embassy closest to your destination(s). When you enroll, you’ll receive important safety information related to your destination. Enrollment also enables the U.S. Embassy to reach you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
Dr. Marie George, MD is an Infectious Disease Specialist in the SVMC Multispecialty Practice in Bennington, VT