Are you taking a long haul flight soon and worried about the prospect of catching a cold or worse?
We’ve all been there — you’re on a full flight, stuck in the middle seat between a cougher and a sneezer with nowhere to turn. Are you doomed to get sick? Dr. Travis Stork, co-host of “The Doctors,” says there may be something you can do.
If germy particles are floating in the air, switch on your overhead air vent to the highest setting, aimed downward at your face. “The air will actually help push those particles away,” he says.
While many stock up on vitamin C and take other supplements designed to strengthen the immune system for travel, Stork says, wellness is more in your head than you think. “All of those supplements out there, a lot of it is the placebo effect,” he explains. “If you’re more optimistic and you believe you’re going to get better, your immune system strangely fires up.”
Stay hydrated. It turns out that drinking plenty of water will not only counter the overall dehydrating effects of air travel, which can lead to headaches, stomach problems, cramps, fatigue and more, but can actually fortify your preemptive natural immune mechanisms to function considerably better. Of course, this is the case in normal daily life — when exercising, during prolonged sun exposure, etc. Even caffeine and alcohol consumption can dry you out. However, in an airplane, where your nose and throat are on the front lines of the war with exceedingly dry air, these are the first places to suffer.
Keep your hands clean. Your hands are the most consistent point of first contact with cold, flu and other germs. It is a direct line from armrest/ handshake/seat back to fingers to fork to mouth to full-blown fever a few days later. Scientists report that the viruses that cause colds and flu can survive for hours on your skin or on objects such as armrests, TV remote control handsets, tray tables and other similar surfaces. However, the simple act of washing your hands with hot water and soap is a formidable rampart against this transfer of harmful microorganisms.
Wear a face mask. The NIH cites airborne germs as one of the top two sources of cold virus infection; some travelers have taken to wearing masks either to prevent infection, or when they themselves are already infected. Personally, I would not last more than a half-hour or so behind a hot mask, but this may be an effective prevention tactic nonetheless.