Thanks to historically low gas prices, up to 60 percent of us are planning a road trip before the winter weather sets in. And while getting behind the wheel is a great way to relax — Ohio State University researchers say road trips cut anxiety in half and lower the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease by 30 percent(!) — the risk of contracting COVID-19 (or another virus) can add stress to any vacation.
Good news, though! There are things you can do, both to protect yourself from germs and to boost your immune system. Here’s how to protect yourself and stay healthy on your next road trip.
Thirsty? Sip this homemade electrolyte drink.
Your first line of defense against illness is a germ-killing antibody called IgA, which your immune cells produce when you’re well-hydrated, say University of Connecticut researchers. In addition to drinking plenty of water on your road trip, try sipping two ounces of this homemade electrolyte drink each hour: Mix 10 ounces of water, 1⁄4 cup of orange juice, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1⁄8 teaspoon of sea salt, and honey to taste. British scientists say trace minerals and plant acids maximize fluid absorption, for just pennies a glass!
Getting gas? Wipe the pump handles.
At least 70 percent of gas pump handles are teeming with germs — they carry, on average, 11,000 times more bacteria than toilet seats! Thankfully, using a sanitizing wipe removes up to 99 percent of illness-causing germs instantly, according to research in the journal Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control. Wipe the handle vigorously, recommends study co-author Andrea Zille, Ph.D.: “You want to kill surface germs, plus remove debris that microbes hide inside.”
Using a restroom? Bring paper towels.
All the hand-scrubbing you’re doing cuts the risk of respiratory infections by 75 percent. Dry off with paper towels to eliminate 10 times more germs than air dryers, which can spray viruses back onto hands, say British researchers.
Got the munchies? Snack outside.
Whether you bring our own food or it pick up from a drive-thru, skip crowded restaurants and enjoy a picnic. Canadian researchers say you’re 18 times less likely to become ill, since viruses, including COVID-19, spread easily in closed spaces, especially when air conditioners are running.
Gotta go? Avoid the “Covid cloud.”
New research shows that “toilet plumes” lift coronavirus droplets into the air long enough to be inhaled — known as the dreaded COVID-19 “mushroom cloud.” In a public restroom with no lids? Researchers advise turning your head when flushing and leaving the stall as quickly as possible, or as one scientist says, “Flush and run.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.