Travel Tips: How to Stay Healthy While Flying

The holidays are here! All over the country families are braving congested airports and boarding crowded planes to get home to visit their loved ones. And when you’re traveling, there’s a chance you’re going to pick up an icky cold or flu as a consequence of your journeys. We’d like to help you ward off any illnesses you might pick up while flying.

woman on plane

If you follow these tips, it’s actually pretty easy.

1. Wipe down your tray table first
Operation “Germ Free” should always start with a thorough wipe down of your tray table with an antibacterial wipe. Exercise even more caution and refrain from eating anything directly off the surface. E.coli lives up to 72 hours on unwashed tray tables. The superbug known commonly as MRSA (Staphylococcus Aureus) was found on 60% of tested tray tables in a University of Arizona airline study from 2007. You don’t have to worry as much about your seat or armrest, though an Auburn University study concluded that microbes last longest (up to 7 days) on porous material like your seat and seat pocket. Yikes!

2. Keep your hands to yourself
It’s just a good rule of thumb to keep your skin- to-surface contact with pretty much everything on a plane to a minimum. Now we’re not advocating extreme measures like facemasks and plastic gloves, but just be aware that the most germ-prone spots on a plane aren’t so obvious. We’ll spare you most of the details, but you should know that the air vent is grosser than the bathroom door handle, for instance. We’re not germophobes over here, but we do pack our 3 oz. antibacterial hand wash for flights. It’s money well spent and will keep bacteria at bay.

3. Don’t wait till the last minute to boost your immunity
If you keep putting off your seasonal flu shot, it may come back to haunt you. To get the full benefit, you need to have the serum in your system for 7 to 10 days. Get your health off the backburner and get yourself in to the doctor, stat!

4. Get to the airport well rested
Get enough sleep before the flight. Studies have shown that you’re more susceptible to infection when your immune system is compromised and one way you can keep your body’s natural immunity working for you is to be well rested.

sick man on plane

5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
You might be tempted to avoid too much water on a travel day (in order to minimize bathroom breaks), but that’s a bad call. It’s a shortcut not worth taking if you want to be in tip-top immune condition. Another reason for keeping hydrated is that airplane cabins are exceedingly dry. When your body is not sufficiently hydrated, it will try to compensate for this by giving you a runny nose. And bacteria loves mucus. If you do get a runny nose, blow it to flush out any bacteria hoping to gain a foothold. You might also consider a saline spray to prevent nasal passages from getting dry, especially on those longer flights. Some seasoned travelers swear by it for combating nasal and respiratory infections.

Finally, we advise you to stay away from tap water during your flight. Studies have shown extremely unsavory microbes in up to 15% of all airplane water. When flight attendants run out of bottled water, guess what they serve? Yup. Just say no.

6. Don a cozy sweater and keep the cold air coming.
Airplanes are cold, but air circulation can keep airborne illness away. If you know you tend to get extra chilly on flights, just pack some cozy socks and a warm sweater, and plan to keep that vent on high. Also, take a pass on the complimentary in-flight blankets and pillows. Unless you’re absolutely sure you’re getting a fresh blanket (a good indicator is that they will be individually wrapped), don’t do it. Bring a pillow and blanket from home if you must.

Your visit home this holiday season does not have to end with a cold or flu hangover. If you use these common- sense techniques, you’ll be in a great position to avoid post-travel illness. Happy holidays!

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