How to Stay Healthy When Flying3 min read
The fact that we can hop on a plane and fly to virtually any destination in the world is pretty amazing—but that doesn’t mean airplanes don’t have their setbacks. Flying can take a big toll on our physical well-being, sometimes causing travelers to get sick by the time they get to their destination. Not a pleasant side effect.
Although many blame the recycled “airplane air,” it’s surprisingly not as bad as you’d think.
The true culprit?
Contaminated surfaces—such as table trays, arm rests, and more—which are prime breeding grounds for all kinds of viruses and bacteria.
But that doesn’t mean you have to travel in a hazmat suit. Here are some tips to help ensure you arrive at your destination happy and healthy:
Strengthen your immune system.
During the days leading up to your trip, be sure to eat healthy (fruit, veggies, whole grains, protein), exercise, and consider taking a daily multivitamin. A healthy lifestyle = a stronger immune system. You’ll also want to take time to relax before you travel and get plenty of sleep the night before your flight.
Disinfect your surroundings.
If you were to only pack one or two items in your carry on, let it be antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer. Some airplanes only have an hour at most to clean up in-between flights, which means there are a lot of areas that aren’t wiped down. Ideally, you’ll want to wipe anything you’ll touch, such as the armrest, window shade, overhead bin, and tray table. If you really want to prevent the spread of germs, consider bringing a disposable mat for the tray table.
Practice good hygiene habits.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands thoroughly throughout the trip, and especially after touching anything that’s frequently used, such as a door handle. Avoid touching your face, including your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, be sure to take a shower as soon as possible to clean the germs off your body.
Eat and drink with caution.
While you should always eat healthy foods (no fried, greasy meals) such as nuts, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol, and caffeine, there are some lesser-known facts about food served on airplanes. According to a test from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012, 12 percent of commercial airlines tested positive for a type of bacteria that strongly indicates E. coli—so eat with caution, or bring your own snacks and meals on the plane with you. You should also think twice about ordering coffee or tea—many airlines don’t heat the water to temperatures that can kill bacteria, and passengers have been known to get sick from a seemingly innocent cup of coffee or tea.
Be sure to drink from a clean straw to avoid contact with surfaces that may be unclean and cover food and drinks with a clean napkin to prevent airborne illnesses from contaminating them.
And of course, drink plenty of water!
To prevent blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT), try to stretch or take walks to the bathroom. Or, try contracting your calf muscles and tapping your feet; doing so will get your lower body moving and blood pumping.
Avoid the seat back pockets at ALL costs.
You don’t want to know what kinds of items flight attendants find in those pockets behind airplane seats (think dirty diapers and used tissues and vomit bags—ick!). So avoid putting anything in these areas.
Photo from NBC news.