9 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling

FEBRUARY 22, 2018
Traveling can be stressful, complex, fun and difficult depending on the type of travel, distance, time zones and arrangements. Planning can make traveling a simpler and easier task. Staying healthy is important for all travelers whether or not they have a chronic health problem. Below are some guidelines and preventative measure a traveler can take to avoid getting sick and staying healthy while traveling. A pharmacist can be a valuable resource during this time.


Eating right can be tough when traveling. Not having healthy eating choices and having limited availability or airport prices can limit options. Bringing along healthy snacks such as fruits, nuts, and nutritional bars may be an alternative to being at the mercy of convenience foods. Be informed about the food available at your travel destination as well as the stops along the way. Stick with unpeeled fruits and vegetables when you cannot make sure the foods are well cooked. A good site for resources and information is Chronometer.1 This is a free site and can host a multitude of diets as well as track nutrients.2 Cronometer has the ability to track your diet, health and fitness bio-metrics.2


Sleep wellness during long travel days may present a variety of health issues. Early mornings, long layovers, and uncomfortable seats can disrupt rest and lower immunity to infection. An option pharmacists can suggest is to focus on comfort. Based on my experience, travel pillows, ear plugs, and sleeping masks can promote rest and rejuvenation. For long flights that transcend many time zones, a sleep aid may be a solution. Always consult your physician first, and when appropriate, several over-the-counter choices can be recommended, including herbal or nonprescription products

Pharmacists are poised to counsel on the medications prescribed by a healthcare provider, offer choices and explain side effects. Pharmacists can also review the patient's prescription profile for any potential side effects with the patient’s current regimen.


Staying properly hydrated is essential. Having fluids available may not always be an option, so it is important to be prepared, especially if you are traveling abroad. Know the likelihood of getting sick from the local drinking water. When appropriate, use bottled water and avoid using ice when the water it is made from is unknown. Depending on destination,  a condition known as Traveler’s Diarrhea may be a concern.

Traveler's diarrhea typically develops after ingesting food or water that's contaminated with organisms from feces that are infectious. These organisms can be bacteria, viruses and parasites, with the most common cause of traveler's diarrhea being enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli.3 The condition commonly presents with loose stools, an urgent need to defecate, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. Staying hydrated is important due to loss of water from the diarrhea.

Most cases improve within one to two days without treatment and clear up completely within a week, but ravelers can have multiple episodes of this condition during one trip.3 Speak to a physician about medications that you may take if this condition arises, or it it persists or worsens.

Immune Defense

There are many products available to aid in boosting immunity. Emergen-C, Zicam, and Airborne are some examples. The ingredient list varies from Vitamins C, B, and E to electrolytes, zinc, and echinacea. Pharmacists can explain and offer choices when patients ask about these products. Various dosage forms are available. Reconstituted powders, nasal sprays, liquids, and tablets are available and can be transported easily. 

Airline Strategies

First and foremost, there are ways to make your flight more stress-free. Planning ahead can help you to avoid issues.
  1. Look for non-stop flights when possible. When faced with longer flights, consider breaking up the flight to avoid fatigue. 
  2. Plan your seat placement. If the patient has bladder issues, picking a seat close to a bathroom is a smart idea.
  3. Consider an aisle seat. I do this for two reasons: First, I get nauseous easily and having the ease to leave my seat without disturbing someone else aids in frequent trips to the bathroom. Second, you never know who you are sitting next to. Imagine being assigned to a middle seat in a middle row and people on all sides have the flu. You fly with them for several hours. Choosing an aisle seat instead of a middle seat limits your exposure. 
  4. Bring disinfectant wipes. The airline you fly with may straighten up your space and empty the trash, but do they really clean your seat? Imagine the flight prior to your flight. During a long journey imagine the person who had your seat prior to your flight had a serious case of the flu. Being in that seat for any length of time can subject you to an infection. This is of serious concern if the person’s immune system is compromised. I bring disinfectant wipes and clean my entire area. I clean anything I may touch, including the armrests, the back of the seat in front of me and the drink tray. Do not overlook the seat beltbuckle and straps. Bring enough wipes for sharing. Other passengers may not think of this, but will  appreciate your offering them a wipe or two. The more they clean their area, the safer and more germ-free it will be for everyone.
  5. Bring along hand sanitizer. This has saved me many times where hygiene was an issue.
  6. If you are sick, wear a mask. Masks can prevent you from spreading an illness to others and protect you from other germs. Check with your healthcare professional about the type of masks that is best to use and good ideas to transport them.
  7. Another tip is to make sure to follow airline rules regarding transport of medications. Knowing what to expect and how to follow aviation rules when traveling can help on a busy travel day. Check out the TSA website for travel tips, handling security screenings and leaning what items can be brought along with you.4

Nowadays, many people take prescription medications. Pharmacists can help patients with getting refills for their journey and proper storage, including products that require refrigeration. Patients with disease states like diabetes may have additional health needs to consider. Regulating your blood glucose on a travel day can be challenging. Having your supplies and medication can keep you healthy and avoid stress as you travel. Keep your medications properly labeled and close at hand. Putting your medications in your carry on is wise idea in the event of lost luggage. Many products today can assist patients in keeping their medicines stable for the long road ahead.

CDC Travelers’ Advisory
  1. Be informed about your travel destination. The CDC website has the up-to-date information, resources, and travel notices.5 This website is useful for following travel warnings and disease issues. Users can simply type in the location or disease they are interested in for current information.6 The CDC also has a useful mobile app, TravWell, for on-the-go information.
  2. Vaccine Recommendations and Guidelines. The CDC website mentioned above also provides a wealth of information when traveling to areas where it is recommended that you receive additional immunity in advance through vaccinations.7 Simply type in the name of the country and a list of recommendations will populate. The site is user-friendly and breaks down into categories: all travelers, most travelers, and some travelers. These categories are divided due to several factors including the level of interaction at the desired location, what you will be doing, and according to your length of stay. 

Pharmacists are knowledgeable about vaccines. In many states, pharmacists can educate and administer many necessary travel vaccines. Pharmacists can also explain the importance of the vaccine, its administration, timing, and storage. 


Each person is different. Regardless of your health status, being prepared and knowledgeable can keep you safe and healthy while traveling. Always seek advice from your physician or healthcare provider. They can instruct you based on your individual health and medication history. They can even order prescriptions to take with you to avoid shortages along the way and to keep you covered in areas where medications are difficult to obtain. Keeping and staying healthy is for all of us, and the pharmacist is a helpful resource readily available to many patients. One last pearl to pass along is for people with health insurance. Check the back of your card and located the contact number. It is wise to see what coverage you have and if it will be applicable at your destination.

Table 1: Check List for healthy travel.                                                 
Travel Documents Disinfectant wipes Aisle seating
Insurance Travel site’s and alerts Vaccines (If applicable)
Medication’s and list Hydration Diet/Healthy snacks
  1. Cronometer. https://cronometer.com. Accessed February 22, 2018. 
  2. Kalamian M. Keto for Cancer: Ketogenic Metabolic Therapy as a Targeted Nutritional Strategy. White River Junction, Vt.; Chelsea Green Publishing. 2017
  3. Mayo Clinic. Traveler's Diarrhea. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/travelers-diarrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352182. Accessed February 22, 2018.
  4. Transportation Security Administration. www.tsa.gov/travel/special-rocedures.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. Accessed February 22, 2018.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices. Accessed February 22, 2018.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list. Accessed February 22, 2018. 

Larry Calemine, RPh, BS Pharm
Larry Calemine, RPh, BS Pharm
Larry Calemine, RPh, obtained his BS Pharm degree at West Virginia University in 1992 and has spent most of his career focused on ambulatory pharmacy. In 1999, he trained at PCCA's compounding center to increase his knowledge and worked for a compounding pharmacy specialized in altered dosage forms. He obtained certifications in Diabetes, Immunizing, Cardiovascular Risk Management, and MTM through APhA. He developed a discharge pharmacy in 2012 at WVU Medicine's outpatient pharmacy to aid in lowing readmission rates for all causes at Ruby Memorial Hospitals. Larry also started an APPE program with 6 schools of pharmacy to increase clinical outcomes.
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