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The Single Best Way to Stay Healthy While Traveling

What’s the number-one way to stave off loathsome airplane colds, stomach-turning viruses and other scourges of the traveling set? That’s the question we posed to our well-traveled readers, who responded with a cornucopia of practical health tips.

Our favorite travel health tip came from Nick, who shared an excellent piece of advice that reminds us why it’s great to make a date with the doc:

“I would top my list with a visit to a doctor — preferably a travel specialist — prior to taking a long flight. This literally saved my mom’s life: she couldn’t get an apt. with her regular [primary care physician], so she visited a travel specialist. During the check-up [she] mentioned a slight pain in her leg — only hours later she was in the hospital due to a blood clot that the doc had found. The trans-Atlantic flight she had planned needed to be postponed, but I can’t say how glad I am she saw that doc!”

Blood clots caused by immobility and cramped conditions on planes, also known as deep vein thrombosis, are a serious risk for air travelers. In 2007, the New York Times reported on a study that connects flying with an increased risk in D.V.T.: “Life-threatening blood clots and flying have been linked for more than 50 years, but a new study of business travelers confirms the risk, particularly for those who take long flights or fly frequently. … People who fly four hours or more, the study found, have three times the risk of developing clots compared with periods when they did not travel.”

As Nick says, it’s smart to visit a doctor prior to your flight if you have a history of developing clots or if you have symptoms that could indicate blood clotting; these include unexplained pain, swelling and redness (most often in the legs). Additionally, travelers should see a doctor to get any immunizations and/or prescriptions that are required or recommended before visiting certain destinations. For more information, read Travel Immunizations.

What’s your best travel health tip?

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