With the winter season comes increased travel, especially as people travel to spend holidays with family and friends. Winter is also peak cold and flu season, prompting some travelers — especially those flying — to stock up on immune system boosters.
Planning ahead before you travel can help mitigate a number of issues, such as being underprepared for snow or sleet. However, there are a handful of other health risks that come with winter traveling, especially if you are going from a warmer climate to colder weather.
The following tips can help you stay healthy, no matter the climate.
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Take Care of Your Skin
Are you used to humid weather? Cold, dry climates can cause nosebleeds and skin irritation. A travel-sized humidifier can go a long way in avoiding nosebleeds and dry nasal passages by adding moisture to dry air with water vapor. Moisturizing creams and lotions can help you fight off dry winter skin.
Fight Off Frostbite
Frostbite is a condition where body tissues (typically skin) can freeze due to lack of circulation. It can occur in as little as 30 minutes in 40-degree weather, depending on the wind speeds. If you plan on being outside for an extended period of time, dressing in layers is crucial to avoiding frostbite. Bundling up and ensuring your ears and fingers are covered can help prevent frostbite.
When temperatures are extremely cold, you are also at greater risk for hypothermia.
Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. Staying dry and dressing in layers can help you avoid hypothermia, and keep you warm when going from a terminal to a chilly plane.
Getting plenty of water and staying hydrated is just as important in cold weather as it is in warmer climates, helping keep your skin hydrated and relieving seasonal constipation. Unlike warmer months, where sweating is common and more noticeable, it is harder to gauge our hydration in the winter — making it all the more important to drink enough water.
The food you eat can also have an impact in your overall health in winter months. Eating anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods can help boost your immune system, and hearty dinners with warming spices, such as cumin or paprika, can help keep your body temperature up through the night.
Taking steps to keep yourself healthy before and during travel can help you avoid getting sick down the road. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may come home with a sniffle. (Paying attention to your symptoms can help you figure out whether you have a cold, bronchitis or pneumonia.) If you do find yourself feeling under the weather, schedule an appointment with a Keck Medicine of USC physician.