Staying Healthy During Holiday Travel

It's hard enough being pregnant or caring for a newborn with your health and sanity intact, without adding the stress of travel and the risk of illness to the mix. Here are your best strategies for warding off aches and pains this holiday season.

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Pack for a comfortable ride

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Pack for a comfortable ride

When you're sitting for long periods of time on a plane, bus, train or in a car, comfort is essential, especially when traveling with an infant. And whether you're a new mom or pregnant, you'll want even more cushion and support than what's provided by an airline or public transportation. Bring a pillow for your seat back or a neck pillow for taking naps and ginger candy or ginger tea to sip if you're stomach's upset.

"To prevent aches and pains from prolonged sitting, try and stretch at regular intervals and walk around the space to get blood circulating," says Laura Josephson C.C.H., homeopath at Metro Integrative Pharmacy NYC. Another must-have for warding off sickness is a vitamin C supplement, says Josephson.

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Anticipate the weather at your destination

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Anticipate the weather at your destination

The temperature back home might be significantly milder than the frigid winds of wherever you're visiting. That's why it's important to pack several layers for both indoor and outdoor wear to stay comfortable and healthy.

That's essential for your little one. "Babies lose a greater amount of heat through their proportionately larger heads and are not as able to maintain body temperature as well as older children and adults," says Josephson. "So protect your infant from cold by keeping hands, feet and head warm in cooler environments." Dressing in layers and putting a pilot-type cap on baby (or other cozy hat) will help keep his body warm and prevent acute illnesses.

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Clock at least 7 hours of sleep a night

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Clock at least 7 hours of sleep a night

Sleep is important—but being pregnant or a new mom can make shut-eye that much harder. When you're expecting, pesky pregnancy hormones can often keep you tossing and turning at night, and that urgent need to pee can interrupt a normal night's sleep. Once your baby's in the picture, the sleep struggle only continues, as she often wakes every few hours to eat and, if you're breastfeeding, you're the only one who can deliver the goods.

"The best thing for moms and moms-to-be is to try and maintain a sleep routine—not only for their baby, but for themselves, as deficient sleep is associated with insulin resistance, prediabetes and diabetes," says Robyn Hubbard, OB/GYN department chair for Spectrum Health. "Also, have your partner help when possible by bringing the baby to you while you're in bed or taking over a nighttime feed so you can rest." Even if you can get four hours of uninterrupted sleep, that's quality, more restful sleep than tossing and turning. "When she naps, so should you—just leave the dust and dishes for later or ask for help," Dr. Hubbard says.

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Exercise at least a few times a week

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Exercise at least a few times a week

The best stress reliever—especially during the holiday season—is undoubtedly exercise, as it won't only help control weight gain from extra calories, but it will help energize you physically and mentally. "Exercising 4 to 6 times a week for at least 30 minutes is associated with many positive health indicators such as reduced blood pressure, reduced blood glucose (sugar), a better cholesterol profile and reduced depression, among other things," explains Adrienne Youdim, M.D., recognized expert in weight loss and nutrition, bariatrics & preventive medicine. "Exercise outdoors, if possible, as we get even more vitamin D from sunlight than we do from food, and the nutrient can help reduce your risk of anxiety, depression, muscle cramps and bone loss."

Even simple strategies, like parking at the back of the parking lot so you can get more steps in, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and grabbing the stroller and heading out for a walk after a big holiday meal can be beneficial.

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Set aside time to relax and regroup

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Set aside time to relax and regroup

There's no time like the holidays to sit back and hit the pause button for a moment so you can regain your super mom strength (nope, those hours of sitting on the plane don't cut it). "Holiday travel in itself can take a toll on your sanity, so practicing stress management can be an important way to stay healthy," says Josephson. "Strive to keep a manageable daily schedule by listening to the cues from your body." That means, when it's time to take a break or say "no" to an outing or event, don't be afraid to do so. Whether relaxation for you involves listening to music, reading a book, meditating or taking a long, hot bath, all of these activities can slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure.

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Eat healthy—and often!

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Eat healthy—and often!

In the midst of all of the holiday chaos, your mind is focused around feeding your baby, which may cause you to forget about feeding yourself. But skipping meals can result in greater hunger later, which then leads to poor food choices and potentially weight gain. "Some studies show that not having adequate nutrients at breakfast—i.e. at least 30 grams protein—can result in higher hunger hormones all day," says Dr. Youdim.

That's why it's so important to eat 3-5 meals a day, incorporating a fresh item in each sitting—preferably veggies with every meal. Optimal nutrition, meaning substantial vitamins and minerals, are associated with reduced risk of chronic disease, including certain cancers. Eating a well-balanced diet filled with fiber and nutrients can also help ward off constipation, another unfortunate symptom of pregnancy, postpartum, as well as frequent travel. "If you're prone to constipation, consider bringing a bag of prunes on your travels and add them to your daily diet to keep things moving," says Josephson.

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Wash your hands frequently with soap and water

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Wash your hands frequently with soap and water

You never come in contact with more germy surfaces and germs from other people and animals than you do when traveling. "The majority of common illnesses (70%) are spread by hands that have touched everyday surfaces and some cold and flu germs can survive on these surfaces for up to 72 hours," says Sherry Ross, OB/GYN, women's health expert at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. When traveling, you might not always have access to soap and water, so be sure to pack hand wipes and sanitizer. Protect your little one from direct exposure by covering the baby carrier with a light cloth to help prevent the transfer of germs.

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Hydrate!

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Hydrate!

Drinking water is always important, but even more so during pregnancy, when our fluid volume increases by 50 percent. "Water intake helps prevent preterm labor, swelling and blood clots, plus it's good for the blood flow to the placenta, which gives baby all the nutrition and fluid he needs to grow healthy," says Dr. Hubbard. "After delivery, drinking water helps in recovery by helping replacing the 300 to 500 ml of blood that is normally lost." Water also helps with breast milk production and maintaining a good milk supply. Aim to sip down at least 8 to 12 glasses of water a day, and even more when you're flying by air, as there's often very little moisture circulating around the cabin.

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Research the health siituation

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Research the health siituation

If you're pregnant or trying to conceive, be sure to double check the travel advisory for the area where you'll be vacationing and avoid regions that have been affected by Zika virus—namely Central America, much of the Caribbean and recently, some parts of Florida and Texas. "This is a very real concern because Zika infection, which is transmitted by a mosquito, can cause severe birth defects in babies," says Dr. Hubbard. Before making holiday travel arrangements, visit the Center for Disease Control's website (www.cdc.gov/zika) for updated information about infected areas.

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