Last year’s flu season was one of the most intense and deadly flu seasons ever, with approximately 80,000 American fatalities. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the previous high for a regular flu season in the past three decades was 56,000 deaths. Fatalities aside, influenza was incredibly widespread last year with approximately 34 million Americans catching the virus and 710,000 of those were hospitalized.
The first adult deaths and pediatric deaths have already been reported for this flu season, so if you haven’t gotten your flu shots this year, there is no time like the present.
Despite the above-quoted figures, one poll found that one-third of American parents won’t be getting their children vaccinated this year. While the strains of flu circulating are unpredictable, the first line of defense to protect yourself and your loved ones is a comprehensive flu shot that protects against as many strains as you can. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, you should visit your local pharmacy as soon as possible, because it takes approximately two weeks for the immunization to be complete.
Other than getting your flu shot, there are other things you can do to boost your immunity, as we’ve written about here. But with holiday travel season in full swing, there are a few more important precautions you can take to keep your family healthy.
SLEEP & DE-STRESS
This first tip might seem impossible, but stress and lack of sleep are huge drags on your immune system. For flights, pack a comfy travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs to ensure you’re comfortable and able to squeeze in as much sleep as possible. If you’re driving, it’s great to have a co-pilot with whom you can trade off. Even if you have difficulty sleeping in the car, taking a rest from the stress of holiday traffic is a great tool in the toolkit of staying healthy.
Jet lag negatively affects sleep, which then ripples on to your immune system. If you’re crossing time zones, one thing you can do to avoid jet lag is to take melatonin around whatever time sunset is in the time zone you’re traveling to. Do this for the week before you travel. And when you get to your destination, do what you can to get sunshine at least on your bare face without sunglasses on, especially in the morning. Sunlight cues the body’s natural melatonin production, and morning sun will help reset your circadian rhythms.
KEEP EVERYWHERE AS CLEAN AS HOME
Wash your hands basically every time you’re in proximity to a clean sink. Bring hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes with you everywhere. When you board your plane or train, wipe the surfaces on and around your seating area, like armrests and seatbelt buckles. And be sure that everyone you’re traveling with is following the same cleanliness routine because it only takes one bad apple.
LIGHT EXERCISE & STAY ACTIVE
Do some light exercise, like the 7-minute workout, when you get to your destination. Try to do at least the bare minimum of exercise the entire time you’re traveling unless you start to feel worn down or like your immune system has already been compromised. Exercise promotes good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. If you’re worried that you have a good chance of infection, be sure not to overdo, as excessive activity can have the reverse effect and make you more susceptible.
DRINK (WATER) TO YOUR HEALTH!
To put it lightly, tap water on flights is not the gold standard. Buy bottled water after you get through security and either avoid alcohol or temper it with eight ounces of water between each alcoholic beverage. If you’re fighting off germs from airports, airplanes, nieces, nephews, etc., you don’t want to add too much of an extra burden to your immune system.
If you want to take your hydration and detoxing to the next level, add a pinch of sea salt to your water for a boost of electrolytes for faster hydration and better water absorption.
KEEP A DOCTOR IN REACH
If you start to feel symptomatic of the flu (or even a cold!), treat it early. The holidays are a busy time, and delaying treatment will ensure that things will get worse. Plus, you run a distinct chance of getting your loved ones sick too. This is why, if you’re traveling—one of the most immune-screwing activities devised by modernity—it’s especially handy to have access to a service like Teladoc.
Luckily for you, Alliance Direct Benefits is committed to helping you stay healthy all year round. Alliance Plus Members save up to 40% on all CVS-brand eligible health-related items (like cough and cold meds and hand sanitizer) and there are discounts available on lab tests, MRI, CT, and/or PET imaging, and prescription and emergency assistance. Alliance Plus and Value Plan Members get access to Teladoc, a 24/365 national network of U.S. board-certified physicians available to answer any medical questions you might have. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M–F, 7:00AM–5:30PM Central Time).