© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Want to stay well during holiday travel? Here's what to do

Travelers wait in a security line at Denver International Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, in Denver.
Thomas Peipert
Travelers wait in a security line at Denver International Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, in Denver.

There's a reason so many people get sick when traveling over the holidays. Stress, lack of sleep and a cocktail of respiratory viruses circulating are a challenge for even the strongest immune systems, according to Northeast Ohio health providers.

About 150,000 people are expected to travel through Cleveland Hopkins International Airport over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to an airport spokesperson. AAA estimates 55.4 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving, the third highest number of expected travelers in 20 years.

Before you leave, it’s a good idea to make sure your COVID-19, RSV and flu vaccines are up to date and to pack a bag with over-the-counter cold medicines, said Laura Reed, a family nurse practitioner.

Whether someone is catching a flight or gearing up for a long drive, Reed recommended avoiding a disruption in one's routine, which can affect the immune system.

“You want to try to make sure that you get some adequate sleep, make sure [what] you're trying to eat is somewhat healthy and stay hydrated," Reed said.

If you take supplements or exercise daily, Reed said it's best to do some of that while traveling — even if it’s just a walk to the park.

Get checked out

If symptoms do come on, Reed recommends visiting a clinic or urgent care.

"Things like the flu and COVID, if diagnosed quickly, we can provide antiviral therapy for patients, which shortens the course of their illness and actually prevents them from getting [severely ill]," she said.

While the flu and COVID-19 virus might not be prevalent right now in Northeast Ohio, Reed warned those viruses may be more active in other places.

Those who feel sick should protect others by staying home, she said. But if that's not an option, wearing a mask, keeping a distance and cracking a window to let fresh air circulate while running an air purifier can help prevent the spread of disease, she said.

Pay attention to what triggers anxious thoughts

Mental health counselors said travel, family time and finances can impact our mental wellbeing as well.

For those who deal with anxiety before travel, it helps to identify what triggers your anxious feelings, said Whitney McSparran, a Cleveland licensed clinical professional counselor for Thriveworks.

So if you notice that, 'Hey, when I start getting really nervous is when it's leading up to get in the car and actually go to the airport,' then have a plan for that, have some distraction techniques to take your mind off of that time," she said.

Slow down

McSparran said turning your brain off for 15 minutes at the end of the day, or even just five minutes of paying attention to your breathing, can help with added stress.

Slowing down can also help with financial pressures.

With the current high cost of living, McSparran said she sees more clients reporting financial pressures and feeling guilt and shame for impulse purchases.

She tells her clients it’s OK to opt out of Black Friday sales or put limits on what they’ll spend.

“Anything that slows you down a little bit is going to be helping," said McSparran. "So even if that’s saying, 'OK, I’m going to add that to my cart, but I’m not going to place the order. I’m going to sit on it and think about it.'”

She said if you still struggle with feelings of disappointment or regret, practice being compassionate to yourself, as you would a friend, who feels restricted by their finances.

Taylor Wizner is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media.