More than 20 million people take to the sky to travel during the holiday months, and some are spreading more than holiday cheer. In, fact, 51% of air travelers say that they would rather fly while infected with the flu than pay a $150 fee to change their flight. That is something to think about as we head into the holiday travel and flu seasons. Although the stress of the holidays and the cramped plane seats with travelers from all over the world can make staying healthy a challenge, we have some tips to help you arrive to your final destination bringing good tidings and not germs!
The number one reason people get sick on planes is dehydration. Although many would like to blame the “recycled” air, it is the lack of humidity in the air that creates the problem. Therefore, hydration is key. We recommend that you purchase a bottle of water once you are through security to stay hydrated during your flight. Taking a small bottle of nasal saline solution or spray will also help fend off airborne germs by keeping your sinus cavity moist. Remember your eye drops or contact solution to keep your eyes from drying out as well.
Sitting on top of a stranger who is constantly blowing their nose, wiping their brow or coughing certainly can derail a relaxing flight. Many times it’s not your neighbor, but the tray table, armrests and the seat pocket in front of you that are the problem. Unfortunately these contaminated surfaces are not cleaned by the airlines and viruses have been found to live on these surfaces for months at a time. If you touch these surfaces, then touch your eyes, mouth or nose; you have introduced yourself to these microbes. Yuck! Hand washing is your best defense, however it is not always possible to get up “while the seatbelt sign is lit”. We recommend antibacterial wipes for those contaminated surfaces as well as using a sanitizing gel with at least 60% alcohol before you eat and drink. If your neighbor is really unwell, turn your overhead vent on and place your hands on your lap. If you can feel the air on your hands, this “breeze” will help move contaminated air away from your face. Scarves and small blankets from home can also provide a barrier between your face and your neighbor.
If you are asking yourself if you are too sick to fly…you are too sick to fly. If you have a fever or your doctor is advising against it, please listen and stay home. If you have had a recent surgery, talk to your doctor before scheduling your flight. We recommend you wait at least 48 hours after general anesthesia or dental treatment before air travel. If you have a significant sinus infection, speak with your doctor before you fly, as you could rupture an eardrum. If you do find yourself on a flight with a cold or you start to feel unwell, please respect your neighbors and practice common sense by coughing into your elbow and keeping your area tidy.
Defense is the best offense. If you are going to get a flu shot before you travel, do so at least 2 weeks before you leave so that your body has time to build up its immunity. Products such as Zinc lozenges, EmergenC and ProBoost can all support your immune system, helping your body fend off unwanted illness. Avoiding excess sugar on your travels will also help your immune system run at full speed.
Finally, if you are traveling internationally, we always recommend that you visit wwwnc.cdc.gov to check on any potential international travel health notices. From Ebola in West Africa to Chikungunya in the Caribbean and Mexico, good travelers need to be informed of the risks and what they can do to be prepared.
Have a happy, healthy holiday season!
Sources: travelchannel.com, cdc.org, Elliot.org, Virgin-atlantic.com, caring.com
12624 S. Route 59
Plainfield, IL 60585
Monday 9AM - 5PM
Tuesday 9AM - 5PM
Wednesday 9AM - 5PM
Thursday 9AM - 5PM
Friday By Appointment Only
Dr. Kalpesh Patel, internal medicine doctor in Plainfield, is dedicated to providing quality health care to Plainfield, Naperville, and surrounding area residents. At Advanced Integrative Medicine, Dr. Patel offers cancer screenings in Plainfield, physical exams in Plainfield, nutritional supplements in Plainfield, healthy lifestyle management in Plainfield, and specialist referrals.