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December 18, 2015

Healthier, Happier Holiday Travel

by Amanda MacMillan


The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you're one of the millions of people planning to travel long distances by car or plane, you can be forgiven for feeling somewhat Grinch-like. Being cooped up for hours while you fight the crowds can put a damper on anyone’s festive mood, and can even raise your risk of serious health problems. Fortunately a few simple steps can make your journey healthier, happier and a little less stressful, says Barbara Keber, MD, chair of family medicine at Glen Cove Hospital. Here are some of her favorite tips for getting to your destination safely and still in the holiday spirit.

Protect against blood clots and swelling. Sitting in the same position for too long can cause a blood clot in your leg called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). That can be uncomfortable – and if the clot breaks off and travels to your lungs, it can be extremely dangerous, even fatal. “If you're on a plane, try to walk the aisles every two to three hours,” Keber says. “If you're in a car, stop at rest stops so you can stretch your legs.”

Even if you can't get up, you can keep blood moving in your legs by rotating your ankles and pointing and flexing your feet. Another helpful trick is to wear compression stockings or socks, which can also help prevent unpleasant swelling in your feet and ankles.

Pack the essentials. When you hit the road or head to the airport, take along some healthy snacks like apples, pears, and unsalted nuts. “They're easy to transport and they can be a lifesaver when you get hungry and there are no good food options around,” Keber says. Always keep a bottle of water handy, too. (Going through airport security? Keep the bottle empty, then fill it at your gate.)

If you're hitting the road and nasty weather is a possibility, fill a bag with blankets, hand-warmer packets and nonperishable food, and stash it in the trunk. “In case you have to pull over and spend the night in the car somewhere, you’ll stay warm and you won’t go hungry," she says.

Walk away stress. Airports can bring out the worst in people around the holidays, especially when flights are delayed and emotions are running high. If you find yourself in a foul mood with time to kill, Keber says, go for a walk around the terminal.

Instead of sitting and stewing over whatever's bothering you, getting a little bit of exercise will release endorphins and help you decompress,” she says. In fact, Keber says, that's a tip you can use anytime, anywhere you feel overwhelmed this season. “Getting away from the fray, even if it's just for ten minutes, can be a great stress-buster.”