For those who fly frequently, there’s nothing like flying with a bad cold or feeling one starting to settle in just after touching down. Fact of the matter is that flying is harder on the body than most of us realize, and avoiding “picking something up on the plane” takes a little effort. While keeping your immune system in fighting shape between flights tops the list, there are a few more steps you can take to keep bugs at bay without having to don a HAZMAT suit from JFK to LAX. Here’s how to make the skies friendlier to your health:
Pop some pills.
And by pills we mean healthy supplements! If you’re not supplementing already, then week before take off, give your immune system a boost with a few rounds of andrographis, probiotics, vitamin C and D. For prevention, I recommend 2-3 grams of andrographis a day (has anti-viral properties), plus a daily probiotic, preferably one with 10-20 billion organisms. If you don’t mind a little gurgling and stomach upset, higher-than-usual doses of vitamin C can help fend off more serious infections. Try taking 2 grams of vitamin C, 3-4 times a day. Top off your immunity tank with doses of essential vitamin D, because most of us are woefully deficient. To determine how much you need, have your doctor check your 25 hydroxy vitamin D level to determine the appropriate amount of D3 to take, or self-test your level with ZRT labs.
Take it easy.
A few days before your trip, strengthen your system by giving it a break – get a bit more rest than usual, go to bed a little earlier, eat more healthfully, lighten up the workout routine and make time to meditate. In short, try to minimize the pre-trip stress on your body so it’s less vulnerable to infection and can stand up to the rigors of life on the road.
Do a little housecleaning.
These days, the airlines aren’t terribly concerned about keeping plane interiors clean – clearly they have more pressing financial concerns. With this in mind, I suggest giving your seating area the antibacterial once-over before buckling in. Wipe down the headrest, arm rests, tray table and control buttons. To pick up surface grime, use a moist towelette, like citrus-scented Herban Essentials wipes which are naturally antibacterial and antiseptic.
Now ear this.
If you’re prone to ear pain when flying with a cold or sinus problem, know that some people swear by EarPlane earplugs, which help regulate and slow down the rapid air-pressure changes that can make ears hurt during ascent and decent. Though some patients say the plugs take a bit of getting used to, all agree that they’re a picnic compared to the pain of a bursting eardrum.
Yes, we all know to wash our hands after using the restroom, but consider giving your hands an additional rinse with a moist towelette after you return to your seat. As most plane bathroom sinks dispense cold or lukewarm water, it’s virtually impossible to clean your hands thoroughly. An additional wipe-down can help pick up the slack, and help wipe off whatever you might have picked up on the restroom door handle.
Hold the highballs and skip the ice.
Cocktails at 30,000 feet are simply a bad idea. Topping the list of altitude-enhanced effects – dehydration, weakened immunity, intoxication and enthusiastic hangovers. Need another reason? Think about the ice cubes dropped into your drink. Most are made from the airplane’s water tanks that aren’t closely monitored for cleanliness and may contain pathogens that can cause a variety of illnesses.
Don’t drink the water.
Treat the water on the plane like you would in a third-world country – don’t drink it, as it may have come from the plane’s tap. Even if the flight attendants are pouring from a designer water bottle, there’s no guarantee it’s the good stuff. To be on the safe side, either bring your own water or drink canned seltzer.
Say no to the mystery chicken.
When you get right down to it, there’s simply no good reason to eat anything that’s offered to you on a plane. The meals are made from low-cost, poor- quality ingredients, are loaded with salt and are devoid of any substantive nutritional value. Why bother? Instead, bring your own nutritious, organic food and eat as well in the air as you do on the ground.
Give your nose a drink.
The air in the plane cabin is dry as a bone, which can cause nasal passages to dry out and crack, making the nose an easy entry point for germs. To keep nasal passages moist in flight, bring along a simple saline mist and give each nostril a spritz every hour or two you’re in the air.
Have a healthy flight!