Stay Healthy While You Travel With Basic Safety Precautions, Internet Tools

Healthy Travel

Healthy travel is something not talked about much until travelers get sick. Flying commercial airlines, passing through airports or even taking a cab to a hotel in a big city, domestic travelers have the potential to be subjected to a variety of germs. But some basic precautions can reduce your chances of getting sick.

Common sense healthy travel precautions like washing hands frequently, keeping hands away from eyes and face and having a flu shot can help. Being sure to get plenty of rest, water and nutrition can help too. Taking advantage of some online tools can add an extra barrier of protection as well.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has online travel help with their Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel that encourages travelers to be “Proactive, Prepared and Protected when it comes to your health – and the health of others – while you are traveling.” The CDC says learning about your destination, seeing a doctor and considering any health issues before traveling is critical.

Having a travel health kit with remedies for possible illnesses like colds or flu along for the ride is not a bad idea either, especially when traveling to an unfamiliar area. Including bandages, gauze, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors and cotton-tipped applicators can come in handy too.

Thinking of international travel, we can add insect-borne diseases, a threat that received little attention until recently. Now, a new website called the Vector-Borne Disease Airline Importation Risk Tool (VBD-Air) tracks mosquito-borne diseases spread globally by air travel, offering international travelers a source to check possible health risks before flying.

The tool promises those concerned about healthy travel a better definition of airport and airline roles in the transmission and spread of insect‐borne human diseases. Designed from travel data and research done at the University of Florida, Gainesville, the tool asks users to enter an airport, select a disease (currently Dengue, Malaria, Yellow Fever or Chikungunya) and an airport to produce a map

“The researchers note that the global air-travel network has likewise contributed to the spread of serious and deadly diseases including influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which are not spread by mosquitoes,” says Larry Greenemeier, associate editor in Scientific American.

The VBD program hopes to be able to identify passengers arriving at any given airport who may need additional screening before being admitted to a country. The data could also be used to warn travelers of areas in the world to avoid.

Even if not planning international travel, with cold and flu season right around the corner, some basic precautions can help travelers avoid picking up an illness along the way. It’s not a souvenir anyone wants to bring home.

[Flickr photo by Wootang01]

Airborne students, teachers help continue NASA relevance


NASA’s Airborne Science Program and Earth system science research has a fleet of highly modified aircraft that can be deployed all over the world for Earth science missions. Operating in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America, researchers use these aircraft to improve our understanding of the planet. This summer, thirty-two undergraduate and graduate students from across the United States will participate in the Student Airborne Research Program aimed at measuring pollution in California.

Using NASA’s P-3B airborne laboratory, students will measure pollution in the Los Angeles basin and California’s Central Valley and study ocean biology along the California coast. In addition to airborne data collection, students will take measurements at field sites.

Its just one part of an ongoing program that combines global satellite observations and ground sampling to better model and understand the complete Earth system, continuing NASA’s mission even at a time when manned space flight has all but come to a stop.

“NASA’s Airborne Science support of the Earth system science community will be exceptional in 2012,” Randy Albertson, NASA Airborne Science deputy program director told SpaceDaily. “The program on track to exceed the 2011 record of 2,600 hours flying science missions.”

In addition to the Student Airborne program, NASA has projects scheduled this year that include measuring snowfall from space (critically important to freshwater resources, atmospheric water and energy cycles), collecting detailed measurements of important greenhouse gases and studying the processes that form hurricanes.

Not only students are engaged with NASA either. More than 70 teachers had an opportunity to experience what it feels like to float in space as they participated in the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston last week.

The teachers flew aboard NASA aircraft designed to fly parabolic flight paths, which create brief periods of weightlessness used in NASA’s astronaut training.

NASA Associate Administrator for Education and two-time space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin also participated in some of the flights and shared first-hand with the participants his experiences in astronaut training.

“The enthusiasm among our teachers participating in the reduced gravity flights is contagious,” Melvin said in a statement. “I know it will add a new dimension to their teaching as they engage their students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies.”

NASA Needs You! NASA Is Recruiting New Astronauts

NASA photo

So Airborne doesn’t really work. Want a refund?

I’ll admit: I use Airborne regularly. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the “medicine.” On one hand, I love that I had actually found something that seemed to starve off an impending cold, but on the other hand I was dropping somewhere near $6 for a small tube of the stuff.

And then I found out that it doesn’t really work — that it has no proven medicinal effect. But that’s OK — I had an idea that this might be the case anyway. For me, if nothing else, Airborne worked as a psychosomatic solution, as a placebo strong enough to trick my mind into thinking that, despite my runny nose or scratchy throat, I wasn’t getting sick thanks to the fizzy glass of herbal goodness. And you know what? It worked.

In all honesty, I began to wish that they’d start producing a ultra-cheap version made of dust or chalk, but still wrapped in the Airborne logo. That way I could spend less money on my placebo, and still keep my body healthy.

But now, thanks to a class-action lawsuit, you can get a refund on your Airborne purchases IF you’ve kept your proof of purchase. And I know you’ve got all of your Airborne receipts lying around the apartment just waiting for this day. If you feel gypped by the situation, claim a refund.

Me? I’ll pass. I threw away all my receipts anyway.