Gilded Serpent presents...
Secrets of a Road Warrior, Part 3:
planning some sort of dance-related travel - perhaps you're attending
a weeklong seminar, taking a dream vacation to Turkey,
attending the annual Ahlan wa Sahlan festival in Egypt,
or vending at one of the major festivals. Don't let your exciting
plans be ruined by getting sick!
people think about getting sick on a big trip, they think of "the
mummy's revenge", or traveler's diarrhea.
is another very real, very common health risk that many of us
don't anticipate: the common cold.
It would be
extremely annoying to be confined to your hotel room with a stuffy
nose, head that feels like someone stuffed it full of cotton,
or racking cough while everyone else is sightseeing, attending
dance classes taught by leading instructors, or selling large
amounts of merchandise. Even if you stay healthy during the trip,
you still risk coming down with a cold after you return home.
It is common to hear stories of people getting sick after Rakkasah
and other large festivals, even if they live local to the event.
In this article, I'd like to explain why travelers face a high
risk of catching a cold, offer suggestions for protecting
yourself against this happening to you, and help you anticipate
what you need to pack "just in case".
Shira and Gilded Serpent are not prescribing!
Women have been burned for less. Please consult your doctor
before taking any medications!
there are never any guarantees - it's possible you might do everything
I recommend and still get sick. But I find that my methods are
usually successful for me. Even if I do come down with a cold
when traveling, it's usually milder than most and passes more
you try any of the ideas I've suggested in this article, please
discuss them with your own doctor! If you are pregnant
or breast-feeding a baby, you need to consider how your actions
might affect your baby's health. If you take prescription drugs
for any reason, you'll want to make sure your cold remedies don't
conflict with the behavior of those drugs. If you have allergies
or immune system issues, you'll want to be careful to avoid any
actions that could cause you further difficulty. I
am not a health care professional, and I don't claim to know how
my techniques for travel comfort might apply to your own health
Important Preventive Measure
The most powerful thing we can do to stay healthy is to ensure
we get plenty of sleep before, after, and during the trip.
Often, people preparing for trips stay up late several nights
in a row to pack, wrap up pending projects for their jobs, or
put their home life in order before leaving town. By the time
they board the airplane, they are already exhausted from late
nights and stress, and their immune systems are vulnerable.
don't have much experience with travel, make a preparation checklist
several weeks ahead of time: get your passport, stop newspaper/mail
delivery, itemize things to pack, etc.
I always begin
performing these tasks several weeks before my Big Trip.
I make arrangements for my pet-sitter. I get my visa if I need
one. I go to the bank for my cash or travelers checks.
Completing these tasks early reduces the amount of stress I am
likely to feel when the final week leading up to my trip arrives.
For my 2004 trip to Egypt,
I packed my suitcase 2 months in advance!
If the event
lasts for a week or more, it's important to ensure you get plenty
of sleep every night after arriving. Trouble sleeping due
to unfamiliar beds, noisy traffic outside the hotel, or partying
hearty before bedtime can weaken your immune system.
When I enter
my final days before travel with a sense of calm and control,
I sleep more comfortably and have more energy to face my upcoming
adventure. Sufficient sleep and low stress levels are the best
tools we can give our bodies to battle the cold viruses that we
will be exposed to en route.
the Immune System
If your doctor approves it, you may want to fortify
your body before the trip with dietary supplements that help strengthen
your immune system.
before the trip, I like to take a daily multivitamin that delivers
100% recommended daily dose of vitamin C, vitamin E, copper,
and other helpful nutrients. I continue taking this daily throughout
day of the trip, I usually take supplements containing echinacea
and zinc every few hours. The one I use is called Airborne.
It contains Vitamin C, echinacea, zinc, and other nutrients. I
plop a tablet into a plastic cup of water every three hours beginning
with the day I actually fly, and continuing through the day after.
(See www.airbornehealth.com for more information about Airborne.)
However, it's not advisable to take such large doses of zinc any
more than a couple of days in a row because zinc overdose creates
its own health problems. Be prudent, and talk to your doctor if
you have any questions or doubts.
trip, be conscientious about eating a diet that is friendly to
the immune system. Citrus fruit and other foods rich in vitamin
C are helpful.
Nasal Passages Moist
Airplane air can dry the nasal passages, which in turn reduces
their ability to block germs from entering the body. I take a
bottle of sterile salt water solution with me on the airplane
and place a few drops of it into my nose about once per hour to
keep my mucous membranes moist. I use a brand name called Ocean,
but you could mix your own at home.
like to take along a washcloth, which I periodically moisten
with warm water and lay over my entire face. Breathing
through it is soothing to my mouth and nose, and my skin appreciates
the Evil Airplane Pillow!
Did you know that airlines don't launder their pillows very
often? Some claim to launder them weekly, others have admitted
that they launder them at most once per month.
Think of the
many passengers who may have used that pillow before you in the
past week. Imagine these people resting the side of their
face on this pillow as they cough and sneeze their way to their
destination. Perhaps they even wiped their sniffly nose
on the pillow itself. Imagine those germs lying in wait to pounce
is why I don't allow airplane pillows to come close to my face.
I don't mind using them on the armrest to make my arm more comfortable
or behind my back, but I take my own pillow to support my head
I take along either anti-bacterial hand wipes or a small bottle
of anti-bacterial liquid such as Purelle, and use it frequently.
On the airplane, I use it before I eat or drink anything, and
after I use the washroom. Admittedly, these products are
not effective against cold viruses, but they do protect me from
bacteria. If I can shield my immune system from the need to battle
bacteria, then it will be able to concentrate more strength on
the battle against the cold viruses that it is exposed to in transit.
people like to use a tissue over the doorknob when leaving a bathroom
in an airport, train station, or on board. I must admit I haven't
done this, but I agree that it helps protect against exposure
to bacteria and viruses that might make us sick.
en route, and also after I reach my destination, I try to wash
my hands before every meal.
cabs, buses, trains, and restaurants all bring us into contact
with masses of people, many of whom may be at the contagious phase
of an illness.
To the best
of my ability, I try to stay away from any fellow travelers who
appear to be coughing and sneezing. Some studies have shown that
a passenger sitting five rows away from you on an airplane can
spew enough germs into the air to put you at risk of catching
the cold. I look for ways to escape, even if it's simply to go
stand in the galley or near the bathroom for a while.
even take health masks on airplanes to put over their noses and
mouths while traveling. It may look stupid, but it's better than
being sick on your dream vacation!
at home, salad bars and buffets pose a risk of catching a cold.
Other people may sneeze and cough on the food as they fill their
plates, and leave germs from their hands on the serving utensils.
it may be advisable to proceed with caution when eating at salad
bars and buffets. It's safer to eat food that has been freshly
placed on the counter, rather than that from a dish that is nearly
When packing, include your favorite supplies for battling
illness. Even if you follow every word of advice I have written
above, you may still catch a cold!
We've heard it many times - if we do catch a cold,
we should get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. There's
a reason why doctors tell us to do these things. They help support
the immune system as it battles the viruses in the system. Refer
back to my advice in my article about
jet lag on promoting sleep and dealing with dehydration -
those techniques help with recovering from colds as well as with
to Find It There
It's never fun to explore an unfamiliar city in search of
a drugstore when you're feeling miserable with an illness, and
if you're traveling to another country there's not even any guarantee
you'll be able to find your favorite products there. For example,
tissues for blowing your nose in Germany
tend to be sturdier and stiffer than those sold in the United
States. When you're blowing your nose
every five minutes, you want to use a product that feels comfortable
and familiar to you. Similarly, Americans are accustomed to seeing
many shelves of assorted cough syrups and lozenges in drugstores,
whereas in a country like Egypt
there might be only two or three choices.
So, pack whatever
products you normally use to feel more comfortable when you catch
a cold. Whether these are herbal remedies, drugstore products,
or other items, you'll be grateful to have them if a cold indeed
catches you in its vicious grip.
are not useful against a typical cold. This is because
a cold is caused by a virus, and antibiotics work only against
bacteria, not viruses.
really no need to take along antibiotic for fighting a cold unless
your colds frequently develop into strep throat, bronchitis, sinus
infection, or other bacterial follow-on illnesses. If you
have a history of bacterial infections following your colds, you
should ask your doctor before you leave home for advice on how
best to manage your risks, recognize an infection if it progresses
to that, and treat the infection. S/he may decide to give you
a prescription for antibiotic just in case you might need it.
Because I don't have a history of bacterial infections after my
colds, I don't bother with antibiotic for this purpose myself.
If your doctor
does give you a prescription, ask your pharmacist whether there
are any issues you should be aware of when taking it. A
drug may have unpleasant side effects, or interact with a different
medication you may also be taking. For example, some antibiotics
can make your skin sunburn more easily and most cause diarrhea.
Imodium, which many people use as a remedy for traveler's diarrhea,
has a warning on its package saying you should consult your doctor
before taking it in conjunction with an antibiotic. Most pharmacies
will offer a consultation when customers pick up their drugs -
it's valuable to take advantage of this opportunity, and ask questions.
In addition to consulting with the pharmacist, it's advisable
to also read the package information regarding side effects and
drug interactions for yourself.
use the antibiotics prescribed by your doctor unless you indeed
see signs that your cold has developed into a bacterial infection,
because overusing antibiotic can cause other health problems.
With antibiotics, it is important to follow the instructions exactly.
antibiotic doses need to be taken a certain number of hours
apart, and they need to be continued until completely used up
even if the symptoms disappear. These instructions exist for
a reason and should always be followed.
When it is time to return home, take the same precautions
against germs as you did when you first began your trip. It would
be annoying to get sick just when you are trying to get back to
your normal routine.
dancers often exhaust themselves with sightseeing, dance classes,
vending, and staying up late to watch shows or attend parties.
Try to make some down time for yourself during the final day or
two of your trip, to get some rest and fortify your immune system.
Packing Checklist for Battling a Cold
To help you plan ahead for your trip and pack, here
is a checklist summarizing the items I described in this article.
Here are some ideas - use the ones that are compatible with your
own approach to health care, and ignore the rest. For example,
I never use a decongestant but I include it on the checklist below
because I know other people do.
discuss any pills or syrups you may be considering with your health
care professional before using them.
recommend taking most of these on the airplane in the carry-on
luggage and using them during the flight.
recommended in my article about jet lag for better sleep
recommended in my article about jet lag for avoiding dehydration
supplements (I use Airborne) for bolstering the immune
system en route
own travel pillow
for handling washroom doors
mask to wear over nose and mouth
tea that contributes to immune system health (green tea,
hibiscus, rose hips)
cup for brewing tea
rich in vitamin C or other nutrients that help the immune
system, such as certain dried fruits
a Runny or Stuffy Nose
for blowing your nose. Lots of tissues!
rub, frankincense essential oil, or eucalyptus bath oil
to ease breathing
to soothe skin under the nose rubbed raw by blowing the
salt water solution to spray into nose to moisten dried
lozenges, but be careful not to take them for too many
days in a row
designed to deaden the pain of a sore throat
to ease a headache
inhaler in case the cold worsens asthma symptoms
teas designed to ease coughs
if you have a history of your colds being immediately
followed by bacterial infections such as strep throat,
bronchitis, or sinus infection.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
more from Shira-
Here is a packing checklist that may help you anticipate your
Health Secrets of a Road Warrior,
Part 1: Introduction to Healthy Travel, by Shira
some of us don’t have much experience with travel, particularly
international travel, and we might not know about the health risks
that travel can pose.
Health Secrets of a Road Warrior, Part
2: Beating Jet Lag
I’ve developed some techniques that usually work
for me in minimizing the discomfort and health risks jet lag can
Rainbows of the Desert Sponsor
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then, do we do about a teacher who has been misled, apparently,
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