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How to Avoid Getting Sick on Vacation

July 24, 2014

No one wants to be bedridden with a cold – especially in the summer. What could be worse than spending those precious summer weekends inside with a sinus infection or nasty cough? Cold and flu season tends to peak between December and February but summer colds are pretty common says Dr. Josh Axe, M.D., the author of several books and former physician to U.S. Olympic athletes like Ryan Lochte. And one of the best parts of summer can be blamed for that unforeseen illness: vacation.

“Traveling can be really hard on your body,” explains Axe.

Surprisingly, hotels can be more detrimental to one’s immune system than the health risks associated with flying. Vacationers tend to go to bed late, wake up early and “less than seven hours of sleep a night triples the risk of getting a common cold,” notes Axe. (Lumpy hotel beds and extra firm pillows will also disrupt sleep). Families and individuals on vacation tend to consume foods that they normally would not if cooking at home – ice cream, candy, junk food – and that means a vacation diet that’s high in sugar and low in vitamins and minerals (sugar has been shown to weaken the white blood cells that attack pernicious bacteria).

Don’t cancel that planned trip to the beach or Europe so fast – Axe has several recommendations for how to beat a cold and ward off any sickness.

One week before

Axe encourages individuals to take 2,000 milligrams of Vitamin C each day to strengthen the immune system as well as snacking on foods that are high in probiotics (the “good” bacteria). Probiotics are found in yogurt, Kombucha tea, miso soup, Kefir, fermented cabbage (like sauerkraut and Kimchi) and tempeh. For little ones who may have difficulty swallowing supplements, foods that are rich in Vitamin C include oranges, red pepper, kale, strawberries, broccoli, kiwi and guava. Don’t forget to get plenty of sleep as well.

What to pack

It’s still important to continue your Vitamin C routine usage when on vacation (Emergen-C packets are carry-on friendly). Axe tells his clients to bring elderberry extract with them (it contains immune boosting antioxidants and reduces cold symptoms) and essential oils like Frankincense and Oregano for their antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties (you can rub the oils on your entire body). Finally, Zinc lozenges are easy to pack and help support the immune system. Axe says Zinc works best when taken at the first sign of illness.

You’re sick

If you’re reading this in bed because you’re home sick, leave your air-conditioned house or apartment right now for at least 30 minutes. Direct sunlight helps the liver produce Vitamin D3, which improves bone health and enables the body to build up its stock of antimicrobial peptides, which fight off a wide range of infections.

“The sun is one of the best ways to prevent a cold and so important for kicking one,” Axe advises.