Whether you’re travelling home for the holidays or jetting off for a much-needed vacation, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to keep yourself healthy on your next flight.
It’s important to understand why we’re more likely to pick up a bug on an airplane. The answer is twofold. First, planes are enclosed spaces where many people are for long periods of time, meaning the germs are more likely to be taking off while you are. Secondly, planes introduce an atmosphere of reduced oxygen and lowered humidity, which dehydrate the body. When the mucous membranes in the nose and throat that normally help to protect from disease dry out, they are far less effective.
So How Can You Avoid Getting Sick?
Fight Flu with Food
Strengthening your immune system before your flight is one of the best things you can do to ward off illness. Make sure you continue to maintain a balanced diet before, during and after your holiday travel. Eating junk food and introducing excess oil and sugar to your system can have a dramatic impact on your body, particularly if your immune system is used to be supported by healthy proteins and vegetables. You should also avoid salty foods during your flight as they may dehydrate you further.
The take-away: Maybe say “no thanks” to the airline pretzels.
Staying hydrated is essential to a healthy lifestyle under normal conditions, but when you fly, it’s even more important. Drinking water can keep the mucous membranes in your throat and nasal passages from drying out, which can protect you from germs. It’s recommended that you drink eight ounces of water for every one hour of flight.
It’s easy to make sure you’re meeting this recommendation by simply bringing your own reusable water bottle to the airport. Bring your empty reusable bottle through security and fill it at your gate. This saves you from spending money on a bottle water at the gift shop and from bothering your flight attendant for yet another 3-ounce cup of water.
The take-away: Pack your water bottle.
Choose the Safest Seat
You may already have a preference of seat choices when flying, but did you know that window seats encounter significantly fewer germs than aisle seats? You may also want to avoid seats nearest to the bathroom as there will be a frequent flow of people passing your space and bringing their germs with them.
The take-away:Window seats are better – and not just for nice views!
Sanitize Your Seat
Pack hand sanitizer and sanitizing hand wipes to wipe down your seat. This includes armrests, seatbelts, tray tables and any in-flight touchscreen entertainment systems. To make sure your hand sanitizer makes it past TSA, get a bottle that is 3.4 ounces or less. The CDC recommends hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol content, so check the active ingredients on the back of the bottle when you choose one.
While you can sanitize most of your space, you want to avoid the seat back pocket entirely. People often use it for trash, which means it’s most likely held food wrappers, used tissues or even dirty diapers. Additionally, sanitizing wipes are relatively ineffective on the fabric of the seat back pockets. You’ll also want to steer clear of the in-flight magazines. Lots of people touch them and they are rarely, if ever, cleaned.
The take-away: Step away from the in flight magazine
You can also help to prevent illness this holiday season by washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth when at all possible. Additionally, a primary care physician can help to keep you feeling merry and bright by providing preventative measures, like the flu shot, or even helping you manage your chronic care needs and medications during this hectic time of year.
Learn how to stay healthy all year long with the help of primary care at Ochsner