Avoid Flu Germs in When Flying

Travelers on planes are trapped, breathing the same air as dozens of other passengers. Some of these people are bound to be ill, down with a flu or cold, possibly carrying some other contagious microbe. The Independent Traveler says travelers “may be more than 100 times as likely to catch a cold on a plane as in your normal daily rounds”.

New emerging diseases travel around the world via air flight. Movies like Outbreak (1995) offer possible scenarios that the World Health Organization (WHO) would be hard-pressed to prevent.

WHO reports, “In the Middle Ages deadly plagues were shipped from one continent to another – carried by flea-infested rats on board ships. Today they travel by plane – carried by airline passengers from one corner of the earth to another. And all in a matter of hours.”

People in planes are sneezing, coughing, wiping their noses and touching things…in the same cabin as you. Breathing recirculated air. This can’t be good.

How to prevent catching germs when you fly:

  • Take Airborne. This supercharged vitamin and mineral cocktail fizzes in water and doesn’t taste bad at all. I actually like my Airborne a little more concentrated than recommended for a super fizzy sensation. Airborne users need to keep taking the tablets once they start, however, as recommended (every two hours, for a few hours before the flight, during and after). Taking this pill just once isn’t going to cut it. Travelers serious about not coming down with a flu from their flight take heed and follow directions.
  • Some travelers swear by massive doses of Vitamin C, taking antioxidants, Zinc lozenges or Selenium tablets, or even fortifying their systems with pre-flight doses of herbal Echinacea. Do your research and ask your doctor before you try any self-prescribed herbal concoctions, especially if you are taking medications that might be contraindicated.
  • Hydrate your body and sinuses. Drink lots of water, hot tea and juice (and less dehydrating coffee, cola and booze). Arid cabin air dries out crucial protective sinuses, leaving travelers more vulnerable to microbial infection. Steam from hydrating beverages like herbal teas will help keep mucous membranes moist. Basically, just keep drinking fluids all flight long. An aisle seat will make things easier for those inevitable trips to the toilet.
  • Look into flu shots, nasal flu sprays, and other new antivirals coming out all the time.
  • Try not to fly during high flu seasons or when the news is reporting an outbreak. The world is very small these days – a microbe from New Guinea could lurk on a armrest, right next to you, on tomorrow’s commuter flight.
  • Consider avoiding the most popular international travel routes.
  • Wear a face filter mask. This would work if people had the nerve to wear them during a flight. A mask could almost completely prevent illness via air droplets, used properly.
  • Wear gloves. Surgical gloves might be less obvious than a facial mask. This won’t provide protection against airborne droplets, but will keep you from touching things and wiping your face.
  • Fly First Class or Business Class. The better class seats are further apart. This can only be helpful when someones sneezes. Or think about a private jet.
  • No gloves or masks handy? Try not to touch anything with your hands. Don’t shake hands with anyone. Avoid opening the overhead compartment or toilet handles with your bare hands – use your sleeve or a bandana/hanky. If you do have to touch something, remember to wash your hands briskly, with hot water and soap, before touching your face or eating.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer – a germicidal gel – if you cannot wash your hands.
  • Use a travel sized container of a germ killing mouthwash like Listerine during flights.
  • Wipe surfaces like arm rests, tray tables, seat belt buckles, vent controls and other non-porous surfaces with something like Clorox Wipes. Bring your own wipes and don’t be afraid to use them.
  • Try not to talk to too many passengers in general. People can be contagious with something and not even show signs of illness.
  • Move your seat, if possible, if your seatmates are sneezing, coughing or exhibiting obvious signs of flu or cold illness. You have the right to protect your health.

The Single Best Way to Prevent Illness:

Live a healthy lifestyle – eat right, sleep lots, prevent stress, don’t smoke, and get some exercise. Yes, easier said than done for the busy businessman/woman. Living right will help your immune system do its job. Business travelers would do well to allow slack time in their busy lives to this sort of flu prevention. Remember, sick time is downtime, after all.

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