(Updated December 19, 2023)
We’ve all been there.
You can’t wait for vacation to begin! You’re getting on a plane to visit grandma and the kid’s new baby cousin. But it’s cold and flu season, and the passenger right behind you is sneezing and sniffling the whole ride over while you try to get the kids to hold their breath and keep their hands away from their faces. And like clockwork, by the next morning, the kids are running a fever and their noses are starting to run, and now you’re quarantined for days in your Airbnb while the rest of the family is out having fun.
The winter holidays are filled with wonder and joy. But unfortunately, they can also be filled with colds, flus, and a variety of other illnesses. And the last thing you want to do on your long-awaited holiday vacation is spend your time either holed up in your hotel room or waiting for hours in the emergency room for your kids to be seen. So what are my tips and tricks to keep your family healthy while traveling, and to nip any illness in the bud before it can ruin your trip?
Read on for my tips to keep your family healthy this holiday and beat the winter blues. Find out exactly what remedies I bring with me for a healthy, happy vacation! And if you’d rather just cut to the chase, you can download my free guide now: Essential Winter Travel Remedy Kit.
Airplane Travel Tips & Tricks
- Get a Good Night Sleep – Make sure you’ve had a good night sleep the night before (and hopefully for the week leading up to your trip!). Airport travel is chaotic this time of year, especially when you have carseats, strollers, diaper bags, and whining kids to juggle. The emotional stress of travel is enough to wear our immune systems down and make us more vulnerable to our neighbor’s coughing. So get your zzzz’s and start your travels on the right foot!
- Wipe down tray table, seat buckles, and armrests – A study looking at the dirtiest places on airplanes and at airports found that the tray table had the most germs by far of any of the 26 samples tested – almost 10 times as many colony-forming units of bacteria than even the lavatory flush button! Eeeuuuwww! So before you put your child’s snack, IPad, or art project on that tray table in front of them, wipe it down along with the other surfaces that your child may touch.
- Stay hydrated, and bring your own water – Wanna know the second germiest place at the airport? Water drinking fountain buttons! And what’s the first thing that kids do after taking a big swill from a water fountain as you’re yelling at them to NOT touch their mouth to the spigot – wipe their wet, dripping mouths with their hands! Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to stay healthy on the road, but bring your refillable water bottles and fill them up with filtered water on the other side once you’ve passed the security gates. Not only will little hands be exposed to fewer germs from the water fountain button, but you’ll be sure that the water your kids are drinking is clean and safe.
- Bring healthy snacks – Be prepared and pack some healthy snacks that travel well, like baby carrots, snap peas, dried fruit, and nuts. As tempting as it may be to “bribe” your child with a pack of M&M’s or a chocolate croissant from Starbuck’s for being “good” on the plane – resist the temptation. Sugar lowers your immune system’s ability to fight off germs within 20 minutes of consumption – just as the passenger behind you starts hacking away.
- Wash hands frequently – with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Did you know that 30% of people DON’T wash their hands after going to the bathroom? EEEEUUUUWWW! And of those who do wash their hands, only about 50% do it RIGHT? Make sure you and your kids are washing your hands the right way. What’s the “right” way? WET hands with clean running water; LATHER hands by rubbing them together with soap; SCRUB palms, backs of hands, between fingers and under nails for at least 20 seconds; RINSE hands well under clean, running water; DRY hands using clean towel or air dry them; TURN OFF FAUCET with elbows, back of wrists or paper towel – not your freshly-cleaned hands! If water and soap aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Take Oscillococcinum – Oscillococcinum is an amazing homeopathic remedy for colds and flus. One study found that Oscillococcinum reduced the time to no symptoms significantly faster than the placebo group – in as little as 2 days! And did you know that it can also help preventatively? Give yourself and each member of your family 1 vial of Oscillococcinum before getting on that plane to give everyone a quick and easy immune boost.
- Clear your nose – Stop those germs from multiplying and taking hold in the first place. Spraying your noses with Xlear nasal spray and blowing out any germs before they can grab hold is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep from getting sick in the first place! Xlear comes in a spray for older kids and adults, and in nasal drops for babies, and they’re small enough that you can carry them right on the plane in your TSA-approved quart-sized liquids bag. Spray and blow (or suck out with a bulb syringe or Nose Frida) throughout your plane ride, or at least as soon as you get off!
Hopefully with these tips and tricks, you’ll manage to avoid catching anything ON the plane. But you’ve just arrived, and your winter vacation is just starting! Be prepared for whatever may come your way by leaving a little extra room in your bags to bring some supplements and natural remedies with you. The last thing you want is to be stuck in an unfamiliar place with no Whole Foods or health food store in sight when your kids are starting to fade! And maybe I’m a little superstitious, but I always think that if I HAVE these natural remedies with me, chances are I won’t need them.
Many of you have asked me what I, as a holistic pediatrician and mama, bring with me on our travels. So here it is – my ESSENTIAL winter holiday travel remedy kit!
- Probiotics –Taking a probiotic-a-day can keep tummy troubles and the flu away! In fact, one study found that “Probiotic use could achieve >54 million fewer days of infection, >2 million averted antibiotic courses, and >4 million avoided missed work days” each year!” Two specific probiotic strains have been found to reduce the frequency and duration of fevers and colds/flus. These 2 strains are found in our Immune Probiotic chewable and Immune Probiotic capsules. The recommended dosage for children and adults is 1 chew or 1 capsule 2x/day. It’s shelf-stable at room temperature, and 1 or 2 bottles should get your whole family through vacation in tip top shape!
- Targeted Supplements (Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Zinc, Quercetin) – Each of these nutrients has amazing immune-boosting power, which is why I put them all together in my Immune Support Synergy powder! Learn more about immune-supporting supplements in my article, A Holistic Pediatric Approach to Building Immune Resilience.
- Omega-3 fish oil – Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil provide essential support for a healthy immune function and a balanced inflammatory response (not too much, not too little), to support complete recovery when you’re sick. Our Omega-3 Synergy has an evidence-based amount of key omega-3 fatty acids and not only that – it’s just about the tastiest fish oil I (and my kids) have ever tried!
To take the guesswork out of it, I’ve handpicked my top 3 supplements above for Immune Resilience and put them in a kit at special savings for you and your kids. Take these supplements daily during the fall/winter seasons and whenever you need added immune support! Here’s what you’ll find in my Immune Resilience Kit: Immune Probiotic, Immune Support Synergy powder, and Omega-3 Synergy. My family and I never leave home without them!
- Pelargonium sidoides – This herbal syrup is great to start at the beginning of any cold or flu-like illness. With activity against many respiratory viruses, including the common cold–causing rhinovirus and adenovirus, influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human coronavirus, parainfluenza virus, and coxsackie virus (the culprit for hand- foot- mouth disease) – it’s no wonder it’s my go-to for just about any respiratory illness! Pelargonium sidoides has even been found to have moderate antibacterial effects against certain bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes (the cause of “strep throat”), Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Haemophilus influenzae. (NOTE: Pelargonium sidoies is found in Integrative Therapeutic’s V Clear syrup or Umcka ColdCare Syrup).
- Xlear Nasal Spray – A must to prevent infections (spray while flying or after any potential “exposure”) to flush out any invading germs before they can take hold, and to help clear those congested, runny noses!
If you’re not familiar with homeopathic medicines, please refer to my blogposts What is Homeopathy – Part 1 and What is Homeopathy – Part 2 for more information on what they are and how to use them. As many of you know, homeopathic medicines are often my preferred choice for infants, and pregnant and nursing women, because they are so safe yet effective! I generally recommend using the 9C or 30C dilution, although the 30C dilution is usually easier to find at Whole Foods and other health food stores. The dosage is typically 3 pellets every 3-4 hours at least 10 minutes away from food or drink. However, for acute situations like hives and fevers, homeopathic medicines can even be given every 10-15 minutes as needed. Space out the interval between doses as symptoms improve. Stop when feeling better. These are the homeopathic medicines with their most common indications that I’ll be packing this holiday:
- Oscillococcinum – 1 vial 3 times over a 24-hour period at the start of flu-like illness, fever, chills. Also great to take preventatively during a flight or after any potential “exposure.”
- Coldcalm – a combination cold/flu formula to combat the most common symptoms.
- Arnica – for head bonks, bruises, sprains, aches and pains.
- Nux vomica – for nausea and vomiting, or upset stomach/indigestion especially after overindulgence (too many cookies for the kids, or perhaps too much champagne on New Year’s Eve?)
- Arnica ointment/cream – for sore muscles, head bonks, bruises and sprains.
- Calendula ointment/cream – for open cuts and scratches, itchy rashes. And if you’re headed to the mountains where nosebleeds are a common occurrence, calendula to both nostrils at bedtime can do the trick!
- Lavender – for general calming, fevers, aches and pains, sleep support.
- Peppermint – for nausea, can also be applied directly to itchy spots and bites.
- Your favorite immune-boosting blend – Elizabeth van Buren’s Immune, Vibrant Blue Oils’ Immune Support, DoTerra’s On Guard, Young Living’s Thieves
So there you have it – my Essential Winter Holiday Travel Remedy Kit. Be sure to download your free guide here: Essential Winter Travel Remedy Kit.
What if your kids DO get sick?
I got you, too! If you haven’t taken my Crud Cure Masterclass, register now for immediate access to ALL the evidence-based, integrative pediatric tools that I use for my own kids and patients to boost their immune systems and help them feel better, faster when they get sick. You’ll learn how to use all of the above natural remedies and more. Register HERE: Crud Cure Masterclass and get access to my private Dr. Song’s Winter Immune Resilience FB group where I’ll be popping in for live Q&A and extra support through the rest of this winter!
Now go have fun in the snow or sun – wherever these winter holidays take you. Have a healthy, happy vacation, and please pass this information along to any mama or papa you know who could benefit!
xo Elisa Song, MD