How to avoid getting ill when travelling 

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If you’re the type of person that picks up every bug going, then travelling can cause some anxiety. For some, it’s usually not a case of if you get sick, but when. In that case, the worry starts before you’ve even got to the airport, and suddenly, a “holiday” can turn into a nightmare as you’re in bed missing out on the fun. The key trigger environments are at the airport, on the plane and then at your destination in a new climate with different water and food. So how do you get to the point where you’re not stressing on the day of the trip?

Well the good news is that are things you can do nutritionally to support your immune system both on the day of travel and when you get to your destination.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
(Picture courtesy of Shutterstock)


You should support your immune system all year, but especially in the lead up to a flight. Making sure you’re getting enough good-quality sleep and trying to limit stress are the most important tips, but you can also consider loading up on immune-boosting foods in the days running up to your flight.


Sleep is vital for a well-functioning immune system. The average person needs around seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and ideally, you should be going to bed and rising at the same time each day. Simple things you can do to for better-quality sleep include making sure your room is dark and well-ventilated (it’s better to have a slightly colder bedroom than hot) and not taking your phone to the bedroom. If you’re someone who doesn’t unwind that easily, try 10 minutes of the meditation app Headspace or Calm before you go to bed and consider a cup of herbal tea.


Almost everyone is stressed, and while our minds have evolved to cope with 21st century pressures, our bodies haven’t quite gotten there yet. Stress has a negative impact on immunity, and you are more likely to catch colds if you are worried about something. For some, at home, your body is usually quite resilient, but the minute you relax on holiday, you get sick. It’s important to do what you can to minimise stress in the day of travel. Try and pencil in some “me” time in the day, do a yoga class and think about restructuring your day.

Fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts on gray background
(Photo by Getty Images/Claudia Totir)

Eat immune-supporting foods

Red bell peppers are one of the richest Vitamin C sources, which supports fighting infections in the body. Broccoli is one of nature’s superfoods and is loaded with vitamins and minerals including sulforaphane, which helps the immune system to function well. A dose of live bacteria with yoghurt can provide immuninty benefits — and add some Manuka honey for an extra boost. In addition, eat plenty of garlic, which is rich in sulphur compounds and a great immune booster, and turmeric, a wonder spice that supports almost every health issue. Research shows it’s a potent immunomodulatory agent and important in preventing sickness. Shitake mushrooms are also rich in beta-glucans, which are known for their immune properties. Simply have in a stir-fry once or twice a week.

Read more: The ultimate guide to travelling with allergies 

On the day of travel

Keep your hands clean

Clean hands protect against infection, so think about dirty hot spots at the airport and on the plane. These can include the security screening bins, seats, tray tables, overhead air vents, lavatory flush buttons and seatbelt buckles. Simply washing your hands with soap and water will do the trick, but you can also take sanitiser where you don’t have access to water.

Drink a whey protein shake

Protein shakes are not just for gym-goers. It’s a healthy snack but consuming whey protein can also help increase levels of a potent antioxidant in the body called glutathione. Evidence shows that glutathione can support immunity in various ways.

Drink plenty of water

Flying is known to cause dehydration, which can be a challenge for the immune system. On the day of travelling, aim to drink three litres of water. Bring an extra empty bottle through security and fill it up before you get on the plane. It’s also wise to limit alcohol, which will further dehydrate you at altitude.

Read more: Should I take supplements during air travel — if so, which ones?

(Photo by Getty Images/Hero Images)


Minimise contamination

If you are flying to a country where the water isn’t safe to drink, it’s a no-brainer to drink bottled water. However, people slip up when they order iced drinks and brush their teeth. If you’re in a hotel, ask if the ice is OK to consume and made from non-contaminated water. You can also limit your risk with food, so check if salads have been prepared in untreated water, if food has been left out and how clean food in buffets will be.

Take a probiotic

To support your immune system and also your digestive system to ward off any travellers’ diarrhea, take a probiotic, which is shelf stable. Optibac offers a range of products, but the “bowel calm” product is perfect for travelling, as it contains a yeast strain that is known to help prevent a runny tummy.


You should understand your body’s needs before embarking on a supplement programme, but in general, key nutrients for the immune system include Vitamins A, C, D, Zinc, elderberry and beta glucans. Don’t fret over taking all of these individually, as many supplement companies offer immune complexes that have most, if not all, of the above in their ingredients.

Bottom line

Continue to follow the above tips, as they will support your immune system at your destination. And remember, you’re on holiday, so it’s time to destress. You don’t want to spend that holiday time being ill.

Featured photo by mbbirdy/Getty Images.

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