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Health Hacks for Your Vacation

7 surprising items can help keep you well while traveling

Health report

Photographer: Dan Saelinger Prop Stylist: Birte Von Kampen

Just a few small items added to your carry-on could help you avoid illness.

While vacations are a great way to unwind and relax, leaving your normal daily routine can also leave you vulnerable to illness or injury. Here are a few "life hacks" that are small enough to keep in your carry-on, but that can help you stay safe and feel good during your next adventure.



Small flashlight to check for creepy-crawlies 

Examine your hotel mattress along its seams and where the headboard meets the wall for dark splotches, a telltale sign of bedbugs, recommends Dong-Hwan Choe, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside. Bedbugs are activated by heat, so you can also use a hair dryer to blow low heat over surfaces and see what crawls out. 

Seltzer water to protect your gut

Sometimes even bottled water can be suspect. “In some poor places, people reload bottles with regular water and pass it off as filtered,” says internist Michael Zimring, director of travel medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. If you have questions about bottled water, play it safe with sparkling water, which is harder to counterfeit. 

Ginger oil to prevent airsickness

A study of patients suffering from postoperative nausea found that inhaling this oil provided significant relief. If you tend toward airsickness, book seats over the plane’s wings, giving you the least movement and thus a smoother ride.

Pool noodle to boost your energy

Cut off a 15-inch segment, and stash it in your bag. Slouching — inevitable on a long plane ride — can lead to low energy and depression, according to one study. Place the noodle at the small of your back to ensure proper posture, says physical therapist Matt Minard.

Plastic bag for channel flipping

Even in nice hotels, “TV remotes tend to be highly contaminated,” says Philip M. Tierno Jr., a professor of microbiology and pathology at the NYU School of Medicine. Slip the remote into a zipper-style storage bag to stay protected. The buttons and signal will still work. 

Trail mix to avoid road food pitfalls

Mix together a handful of nuts, some pumpkin or sunflower seeds, dried fruit such as raisins or dried cranberries, and 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips. The protein, healthy fat and fiber will keep you satiated between meals, says Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian.

Golf ball to save your feet

Tight calves lead to sore heels. Sit on the ground, stretch out your legs, and place a golf ball under any tender points in your calf. Then hook a hand towel around the arch of the foot and gently stretch the calf muscles by pointing and flexing the foot.

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