Stay Healthy on Your Next Flight

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It’s summertime - the perfect time to jump on a plane and take a vacation!

Day one of vacation arrives, you’re boarding your flight, and you’re ready for a summer adventure. As you make your way down the aisle to your seat, a guy in the first row sneezes. The smile disappears from your face and the excited feeling you had melts into doom. Are you bound to catch what he has? No, not necessarily.

When you are heading out of town on a summer vacation, the last thing you want is to arrive at your destination feeling sick. Here are a few tips to help you stay healthy when traveling by plane this summer:

Wash Your Hands and Practice Good Hygiene

A small space with a lot of people in close contact is a great place for germs to spread. In the hospital, we teach patients that the number one way to prevent infection is handwashing. This is true on land and in the air.

Imagine that you can see germs in bright, neon colors. A man sneezes and raises his hand to cover his mouth. The germs cover his hand and land on all the nearby surfaces. He takes a sip of water and the germs coat the cup and then the call light when he presses it. The stewardess arrives at his seat and takes the empty cup to throw away. She reaches for a bottle of water and hands it to the woman in the next row. And so on…

Be mindful of the surfaces you touch. On an airplane, germs that can make you sick are on the tray tables, armrests, magazines in the back of the seat in front of you, door handles, your shoes, etc. A study from Auburn University revealed that bacteria, like E. coli and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureas (MRSA), can survive for days on the surfaces in airplanes.

The best thing you can do to stop the spread of germs on an airplane is to wash your hands correctly and frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Running water over your hands or using a tiny amount of hand sanitizer won’t help.

Stay Hydrated

The air on planes has lower humidity than air in most buildings on land. The drier air on an airplane can cause skin and sinuses to dry out. Minimizing alcohol and caffeine, both diuretics, can help you stay hydrated. Drink water and hold off on the cocktail or coffee until you land.

Get Up, Move Around, Get Circulation

On a long flight, prolonged sitting can put you at risk for developing blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). To minimize your risk of developing a life threatening condition like DVT on a long flight, avoid tight fitting clothing that can restrict circulation, avoid crossing your legs, and get up and move every hour.

If you can’t move around, exercise your legs while you are seated by raising your toes while keeping your heals on the ground, then raising your heals with your toes on the ground. Learn more about preventing DVT here.

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