11 Tips for Staying Healthy while Traveling for Work
Advancements such as videoconferencing and screen-sharing have made it easier to communicate without travel. But face-to-face meetings still provide advantages that this new technology can’t match. In other words, the business travel industry is alive and well, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
In fact, US residents alone accounted for more than 450 million trips for business purposes in 2018.1 That works out to about 12 to 14 trips per year for the average business traveler.
For those traveling on business, or in general for that matter, the risk of getting sick is typically higher compared to staying at home. Plus, this risk increases the further away you travel, especially if you are traveling to a third-world country.
Why you’re more likely to get sick away from home
When we’re outside of our natural environment or normal daily routine, we are more likely to encounter stressors that the body is unfamiliar with. This can lead to increased stress, which can lower our immune response.
The traveling environment can be particularly stressful. Plus, when we travel, we are often among large groups of people as well as different cultures, different types of food, and more. All of these factors affect our immune response.
More specifically, below are some key reasons why we tend to get sick more often when on a business trip:
- Stress and fatigue – Between preparation, travel to the airport, and reaching your ultimate destination, there is often a lot of stress involved with a business trip. This stress can build up and lead to fatigue, which can be difficult to cope with and recover from.
- Exposure to viruses – Airports and train stations are hotbeds of germs and viruses. Being in these and other public places for long periods of time increases your exposure, leading to increased risk of getting sick.
- Foreign diseases – Visiting a different place may expose us to diseases we aren’t familiar with. This is especially the case with foreign countries.
- Unhealthy/unfamiliar diet – Our diet may change dramatically when on a business trip. People often eat out more and overindulge while on a trip, forgetting about healthy vegetables and other foods they may eat more regularly at home.
- Forgetting medications – This one happens more often than you may think. In addition to the other travel stressors you face, forgetting your medication can easily lead to you getting sick during your trip.
- Airplane environment – In addition to germ and virus exposure, airplane radiation can also weaken your immune system. Airplane travel may also cause jet lag and what is known as an airplane cold from low cabin humidity.
- Lack of sleep – Not getting enough sleep during your trip can further weaken your immune system as well as other systems in your body.
How to stay healthy while traveling for work
Now that you know more about what causes sickness in the traveling environment, let’s take a look at some tips for staying healthy while you’re away from home. This easy-to-follow advice may just prevent you from getting sick and being miserable on your next business trip.
1. Keep hydrated
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your immune system. A body that is hydrated is more efficient at eliminating toxins and other waste materials. When you are hydrated, you are also less likely to experience fatigue and sleepiness during the day.
To keep hydrated on your trip, take bottled water with you or get some at the airport, as well as at the grocery store after you land. Opt for glass or stainless steel bottles instead of plastic, as plastic bottles may contain BPA and other harmful contaminants. Also make sure the water is filtered and not taken directly from the tap. Continue to drink pure, filtered water throughout your trip.
2. Take probiotics
Along with improving microbial balance in the gut, research shows that probiotics also support immune function.2
This combination of benefits makes probiotics a must-have for any traveler. You can get your probiotics from a supplement or by consuming foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
If you decide to use a supplement, make sure it contains at least 5-10 billion live strains of bacteria or yeast. Also, the supplement should contain a wide variety of probiotic strains to provide a broad range of health benefits.
3. Take immune-boosting supplements
Probiotics are one type of immune-boosting supplement you should take on your business trips, but there are many others you can take to ensure that your immune system is functioning at its best. These supplements include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- B vitamins
For best results, take one or more of these immune-boosting supplements a few days before your trip. Then, continue to take them throughout the duration of your trip.
4. Don’t forget medications
Forgetting any medications you may be taking can turn your business trip into a disaster. Ensure that your medications are packed in your carry-on bag before leaving. Avoid putting your medications in the truck or glove compartment if traveling by car, as hot and cold temperatures may affect their efficacy.3
If you do forget to take your meds with you, you can call your doctor or pharmacy to order a prescription where you are.
5. Bring healthy snacks
Although delicious, candy bars, pastries, soda, and other sugary snacks can suppress the immune system—increasing your risk of getting sick. Replace these unhealthy foods with immune-boosting snacks to avoid getting sick on your next business trip. Healthy snacks that can give your immune system a boost include:
- Greek yogurt
- Citrus fruits
- Dark chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
Along with these foods, it’s a good idea to take some green tea, ginseng tea, or ginger tea bags with you. It may be more difficult to use these on a plane, but you can make yourself a hot cup once you reach your hotel room. You may also want to brew a cup before your trip.
6. Keep your hands clean
Washing your hands frequently is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that only 5% of the population washes their hands thoroughly enough.4
After wetting your hands and lathering them with soap, you should scrub them for at least 20 seconds. Also, don’t forget to rinse the soap off thoroughly.
A bathroom may not always be readily available when you are traveling. This is where hand sanitizers come in. Make sure to choose a non-scented hand sanitizer, as scented ones are often loaded with toxic chemicals. An antibacterial wipe may be a better choice than a gel sanitizer, as you can actually wipe most of it off after washing so it doesn’t absorb into your skin. In addition, you can use sanitizing wipes to clean your personal items and the area around you to further prevent exposure to germs.
7. Reduce airplane radiation
Did you know that traveling by plane exposes you to significant levels of radiation? This is due to the thinner air at high elevations, which means fewer molecules to deflect cosmic rays.5
The good news is that there are a number of ways to minimize your exposure to radiation on your flights. First, try to take a small plane and avoid mid-day flights. Smaller planes fly at lower altitudes, and there is less radiation in the air in the morning, evening, and night.
Foods that are high in antioxidants can also help your body shield itself against radiation. Some of these include dark chocolate, blueberries, pecans, apples, and plums. Additionally, you may also want to consider getting a radiation-shielding laptop pad, headset, and/or blanket.
8. Eat as healthy as possible
The ease of eating out for every meal is tempting when you’re on vacation. Plus, you may be exposed to different foods that you aren’t used to while you’re out of town. While you can’t avoid these changes in your diet altogether, you can take steps to ensure that you are getting the nutrition your body needs when you travel.
As a first step, it’s a good idea to visit a grocery store once you arrive at your destination. You can buy foods that you are used to eating, including healthy options that you may not have access to at a restaurant. And while experiencing new foods can be fun, you don’t want to overdo it. Try to stick to foods you are used to, and order healthy sides such as vegetables as much as possible.
If you do choose to eat out every meal, choose restaurants with healthy food options. And if you are in an area with questionable tap water, avoid restaurant water as well as ice. As a healthy alternative, bring your own filtered water instead.
Another thing you shouldn’t neglect on your business trip is exercise. In addition to relieving stress, exercise can increase your energy level, boost your mood, and more. It also offers many benefits for immunity, such as helping eliminate harmful bacteria in the body and reducing stress hormones.6
Most hotels have an exercise room, so make sure to take advantage of it during your trip. Of course, there are other ways to get your exercise besides a hotel gym. You could take a walk or jog outside, go golfing, or go on a nature hike. Even sightseeing can be an effective way to burn those extra calories.
10. Take time to relax
Between travel and doing everything you can to have a successful meeting or event, it can be difficult to find enough time to relax. You should make relaxing a priority on your business trip, however, even if you can only do it for a few minutes each day. A few things you can do to relax include:
- Use the hotel Jacuzzi & pool
- Get a massage
- Take a quick power nap
- Practice deep-breathing exercises
- Stay off your mobile phone and/or laptop
- Take a walk outside
- Watch a movie
- Go to a sporting event
11. Get enough sleep
Last but certainly not least, getting adequate sleep is one of the best ways to stay healthy while traveling for work. When you are sleep-deprived, on the other hand, you are at greater risk of getting sick. Plus, a lack of sleep can make you forgetful, raise your blood pressure, and cause anxiety and depression.
Many people find it difficult to sleep away from home. An unfamiliar environment, after all, is not conducive to a restful night of sleep. To get more comfortable in your room so you can get plenty of quality sleep and reduce any jet lag symptoms, follow these tips:
- Bring your pillow from home
- Be prepared with a mask and earplugs or a noise machine
- Follow your regular nighttime routine as much as possible
- Drink a relaxing tea such as chamomile
- Try one of these techniques to get to sleep in 5 minutes or less
- Take melatonin or valerian root
- Hide the alarm clock
- Turn off electronic devices
- Read a book
- Try a lavender essential oil
Bonus tip – Get a scan before your trip
One other tip for staying healthy while traveling for work is to get a ZYTO biocommunication scan a few days before you leave. A ZYTO scan shows which oils, supplements, and other wellness products and services for which your body showed a strong response. Taking the top products identified in a ZYTO bioscan can help you maintain your wellness so that your body is better able to handle the stress of travel.
1. “U.S. Travel Answer Sheet.” U.S. Travel Association. Ustravel.org.
2. Borchers, A.T., C. Selmi, et al. “Probiotics and immunity.” Journal of Gastroenterology 44, no. 1 (2009): 26-46.
3. Konrad, Walecia. “Mistakes in Storage May Alter Medication.” The New York Times Company. Nytimes.com.
4. “Keep Hands Clean, Prevent the Spread of Germs.” National Jewish Health. Nationaljewish.org.
5. Jorgensen, Timothy J. “Air Travel Exposes You to Radiation–How Much Health Risk Comes with It?” Scientific American, A Division of Springer Nature America, Inc. Scientificamerican.com.
6. “Exercise and immunity.” National Institutes of Health. Medlineplus.gov.