What steps are you taking to avoid getting sick while flying?

inside-plane-warm-toneThe holidays are here! This season of gathering with our families and loved ones is without a doubt one of the busiest times of travel for many of us, and definitely not the time we want to deal with getting sick. I’ll tell you how to prevent getting sick while flying , but first, let’s dispel the myth about recirculated air.

Lots of people believe that the air in the plane carries the “international germ pool” and that’s why they get sick. Actually, research shows that people pick up germs at the same rate whether the air is fully recirculated or partly fresh air.

The problem with airplanes is the close contact with an infected person. Just imagine, I’m infected with the cold virus and my only symptom is a runny nose. I board a plane and immediately the dry air makes it worse. I’m walking down the aisle with my carry-on in one hand and with the other I’m wiping my nose. The next second, I find myself holding on to a seat to catch my balance. You are right behind me, in that small aisle that seems narrower each time you fly. You put your hand where I had put mine, then unconsciously you touch your face, and “bingo!” The virus found its official transport system. That’s the way we get infected!

Here are some easy ways to prevent this:

  • Take along some sanitary wipes! Clean your hands, especially before you eat.
  • Protect yourself against the cold dry air on the plane. It blows right toward your face, drying out the mucous membranes inside your nose and throat that form a natural protective layer against viruses. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, and keep sucking on herbal lozenges with immune-protecting herbs (available in any health food store).
  • Gargle with a saline solution (you’ll probably want to do this in the airplane’s bathroom to avoid disturbing your seatmates!) Bring along a little salt to add to the water you can get from your flight attendant. Researchers in Japan found that people who gargle three times a day during cold and flu season (a popular habit in Japan) had a 40% decrease in colds and coughs.
  • Even in a tropical location far from stores, you can find lemons and limes to make refreshing immune-boosting drinks. Add honey and grated ginger, if you can, for delicious flavor and extra anti-microbial activity. They will work better than antibiotics for viral illnesses, and most colds and coughs are viral.
  • Use Xlear Nasal Spray before getting on the plane, and also after deboarding. This will help counteract the dryness of the air on the plane, by moisturizing and protecting your air passages from harmful bacteria.

Try these suggestions and enjoy your travels this holiday season!  

What do you think of the prevention methods listed here? Would you use them? What are some of your favorite methods? Comment below or tweet me your thoughts @GustavoFerrerMD

Dr. Ferrer has been my colleague for many years and his wealth of knowledge continues to impress me. He always strives to learn more and stay on the cutting edge in his field.”

Dr. Jeremy Robertson

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