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Tips On Staying Healthy While You Travel

Teresa Crawford
AP Photo
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The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the cases that have popped up elsewhere on the planet have put new scrutiny on travel. Health officials have been quick to assure the public that catching the disease on a plane or at an airport is unlikely. But staying healthy while traveling is a major concern for many people, even before the outbreak.

An important note before we keep going: We are not medical experts. And we’re not going to address Ebola specifically. For information on that, look to the resources linked at the end of this article.

What we can tell you is what KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley does to stay healthy while he travels.

Before You Go

Check out what kind of inoculations you might need before traveling to a foreign country. Your physician can help with this. Brumley also recommends the Travel Clinic at the University of Washington, whose services include pre-trip consultations.

In the days leading up to a flight, especially a long haul, take good care of yourself. Drink plenty of liquids, exercise in whatever way is best for you and eat healthy foods.

And pack any medications you might need in your carry-on, not your checked luggage. If your bags are lost, you’ll still want access to your medicine.

On The Plane

Be sure to get plenty of rest the night before your flight. It can be tempting to procrastinate on packing. You might find yourself staying up late before your early-morning flight, trying to cram things into a suitcase. If you have an overnight flight, get a good night’s rest the evening beforehand, too.

“It really helps if you go into a flight rested,” Brumley said. And if you can, “try to book a flight that doesn’t leave early in the morning.”

Once aboard, use hand sanitizers at your seat, wash your hands after using the airport restroom and practice other common-sense hygiene techniques.

Know Where You’re Going

The Centers for Disease Control and the State Department both offer advice to travelers on ever-changing global health conditions. (The State Department also offers warnings about political unrest and other issues that might hurt a trip.)

And keep a good sense of perspective.

Brumley said his contacts in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa are reporting that travel in their region is down, and that they’ve had cancelations.

“Which is really too bad, because these countries are 3,000 or 4,000 miles away from the northwest corner of Africa, and they haven’t had any cases of Ebola there,” he said. “But people tend to get spooked easily and cut short their vacations if they hear of anything that’s maybe spreading.”

The capital of Liberia, where there have been the most deaths from the diseases so far, is more than 3,400 miles from Johannesburg, South Africa. That’s a good 700 miles greater than the distance between Seattle and Miami.

If you’re still nervous about all of this, can you cancel your flight? The short answer: Yes, but there are catches. The long answer comes to us through of a good story we read in the Los Angeles Times.

Ebola Facts                                                                                  

Centers for Disease Control Ebola Outbreak Information

What Is Ebola?

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.