Also Read: Explaining the Coronavirus to Kids

I wrote a post years ago about staying healthy while traveling. It bears repeating today, as the hysteria over the novel coronavirus continues to mount. I feel for those who are ill, and for the families of those who have died, but at this point, even with all the closures and cancellations, I am managing my worry. It doesn’t seem to really affect children, and that’s always my biggest concern. Also, the flu has killed many more people in America this year than the coronavirus has worldwide, including kids, so if you’re going to worry about something …

Protecting yourself against the coronavirus is the same as protecting yourself against germs in general — thorough frequent hand washing, keep your hands away from your face, and if you are sick, stay home.

Read: Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Specifically, when you are traveling, the following suggestions can help you stay healthy, no matter what germ you are afraid of.

We have all had the experience of sitting next to someone on the subway, in a movie theater or at a meeting whose phlegmy, hacking cough makes us change our seats and speed dial our doctor for some prophylaxis. While traveling, moving out of the viral line of fire is not so easy. We are confined to our seats, not knowing the health history of the people who are rubbing our elbows, passing us our pretzels and awkwardly climbing over us to use the bathroom. We are sharing intimate quarters with hundreds of other people, many of whom are snotty kids, some of whom are ill, some of whom will become ill within the next 48 hours, and therefore, are at their most contagious. It is the frenzied equivalent of a bacterial and viral rave — these little buggers don’t need Ecstasy. they want to be all over you even without it.

How can you protect yourself and your family?

1. Support your immune system — The same things you do to avoid getting sick in the winter, can help you in the week or weeks before you travel. Get ample sleep, eat healthy foods, increase fruits and vegetables, and cut down on caffeine. Increase your intake of vitamin C, vitamin E and Zinc, either directly in your diet or by taking supplements.

2. Avoid dehydration — Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your flight. As much as it pains me to say, avoid alcohol. There will be plenty when you land. Buy water bottles at the gate and remind your kids to drink. Staying well hydrated will help the immune system function at its best and prevent the skin and nasal passages from becoming dry and cracked. This will help prevent bacteria and viruses from breaking through your natural barriers.

3. Clean your area when you board — Don’t be embarrassed to wipe down your seats, armrests and tray tables with antibacterial wipes. This type of behavior may attract funny looks, but better than having the stomach flu (or influenza or coronavirus) on vacation. Besides, a little crazy behavior and parents might keep those snotty kids farther from you and yours.

4. Clean yourself –I’m not saying you are dirty, but … after you leave the bathroom, futz with the volume and channel buttons, adjust the air flow and fall asleep with your cheek against the window, you are a walking petri dish. Bring some antibacterial clanser and rub it on everyone’s hands every hour or so. When you get to your final destination, change all of your clothes and either wash them in hot water or bag them until you get home.

5. Over the counter prevention — Products like Airborne claim to boost the immune system prior to being in crowded areas or at the first sign of a cold. The effectiveness of these supplements has never been proven. The main ingredients are usually vitamin C and echinacea. While they are not FDA-tested, they probably won’t hurt you. Read: 18+ Immune-Boosting Foods
I have a friend who recommends bringing a lint brush and sweeping the seats. I have another friend who puts neosporin up her nostrils. A little OCD? Maybe, but, the only thing worse than being sick, is being sick away from home.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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