Come what may—cold, flu, norovirus—certain travelers manage to jet-set all over the world, attend the most crowded events, and rarely get sick. If you’re not one of the lucky few, there are still some ways to mitigate the negative health effects of frequent travel. Here’s what you need to know to stay well on your next getaway.


1. Strengthen your immune system. The scientific evidence on the powers of supplements to prevent cold and flu isn’t yet conclusive, but it doesn’t hurt to take them if they’ve worked for you in the past, says Phyllis Kozarsky, M.D., the Centers for Disease Control’s travelers’ health consultant. A frequent traveler herself, she favors probiotics to boost gut health.

2. Pack these items in your carry-on: Hand sanitizer with at least 50 percent alcohol; disinfecting wipes (such as Clorox or Lysol); a light shawl or coat that can be used as a blanket; a travel pillow (on a long-haul flight or train trip); bandages; and nasal spray.

3. Wear glasses instead of contact lenses. Contact lenses can dry your eyes and make them vulnerable to microbial invaders. Wearing glasses also makes you less likely to touch or rub your eyes.


1. Stay at least six feet away from people who are coughing, sneezing, or who simply look sick.That’s the distance tiny virus-filled droplets can travel when exhaled by a flu-infected person—landing in your eyes or nose and ending up in your respiratory system.

2. Sanitize hands after touching germy hot spots: For instance, the ticket kiosk, ATM, security-line bins (have you seen anyone clean those between use?), door handles, dining trays and tables, and anything in the bathroom. “If it’s touched by a lot of people, it’s a potential problem,” says Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, and founder of a blog about viruses. Use sanitizer on all parts of your hands, making sure to include fingertips and any rings. If you can’t clean right away, at least be mindful of not touching your hands, nose, and mouth.

3. Treat public bathrooms as the germy cesspool they are. Do not put your bags on the floor, or your toiletry kit on the counter (if you must, then use disinfectant wipes afterward). Do your business without sitting on the toilet. Close the lid before flushing, or, if there isn’t one, flush as you leave, to minimize spray-back. Avoid touching surfaces with hands. Wash hands with soap and water for a full 15 seconds before you leave. Use your drying towel to exit without touching the door handle (if you can’t, then use hand sanitizer after you leave the bathroom).

4. Wear socks through the security line of an airport. The chances of getting a fungal infection are low—you need a damp floor for that to happen—but you may pick up something on your feet, which then gets transmitted onto your hands as you put your shoes back on (and then your face).

5. Buy a bottle of water (or two) before boarding on a plane. While the tap water on-board has greatly improved in the last 10 years, random samplings have still every so often picked up fecal bacteria, says Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of microbiology & environmental sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson. If you anticipate brushing your teeth or splashing your face during your flight, use bottled water.