© Katherine Poehlmann, PhD
Fall and winter usually increase contact with crowds who are likely to be contagious with cold germs. You will encounter people who will go to work, to the mall, to church, to the airport despite being sick. Planes are particularly high risk with recirculated air carrying bacteria to all parts of the cabin.
To boost your immune system for several days before your trip, consider taking herbs like Echinacea, Siberian ginseng (also known as eleuthero), and astragalus. To help fortify the body’s supply of beneficial bacteria, an acidophilus supplement taken for two weeks before your trip will strengthen the digestive system’s ability to fight foreign organisms in food and water. Additional milligrams of vitamin C with its antibiotic and antiviral properties can help. Megadoses of 5 grams or more are not harmful. In fact, there is a sizable body of scientific research that credits vitamin C with effectively combating cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, and other serious illnesses besides colds.
In the airport, train, or bus terminal: wash your hands often. You will be touching many surfaces contaminated with bacteria.
En route: public transport carrier (plane/train/bus) air is dry and full of fellow passengers’ germs. Suck on zinc lozenges (containing vitamin C) the day before your flight, during the flight, and the day after. Have these lozenges handy for the first sign of cold symptoms, usually a sore, irritated throat. Drink plenty of purified water during the flight to keep yourself hydrated. Ginger tablets or ginger ale can ward off motion sickness.
If, despite your pre-travel efforts to boost your immune system, you arrive at your destination with cold or flu symptoms, give yourself time to rest. Brew some Echinacea or chamomile tea. Digestive problems? For constipation, short term use of herbal laxatives like senna and cascara sagrada are helpful. Use ginger to combat heartburn or indigestion from unfamiliar or rich foods. The herb quassia is effective in fighting some intestinal “bugs” including amoebas and giardia found in contaminated food and water. Garlic is a reliable antibiotic, both internal and external.
For dry skin and to help heal burns, cuts, or wounds, carry a tube of aloe vera gel or arnica or calendula cream, and a small bottle of tea tree oil for antiseptic and fungicide use. Aloe vera gel is excellent to soothe sunburn. Applying Echinacea extract to insect bites will numb the sting.
If you are traveling to a much higher altitude than you experience at home, take chlorophyll two to three days before arrival. The theory is that chlorophyll has a structure similar to human hemoglobin and provides building blocks for more of this oxygen-carrying pigment. Chlorophyll may also increase oxygen-binding ability in the lungs. Drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration.
Discuss your foreign travel plans with your doctor and find out which immunizations are recommended. In locales where sanitation is questionable, avoid raw foods (except fruits and veggies you can peel) and unpurified water. Eat food that has been well cooked, and make up for an irregular diet by taking vitamin supplements. Don’t drink beverages over ice, which may have been made from impure water.
Dr. Poehlmann is the author of Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection, available at Amazon.com and major bookstores, or click here to order now.