It’s Plane and Simple: How to Avoid Catching Colds During Flights

There’s no escape from germs. They’re everywhere, but when you’re on a plane, there’s truly no escape from them because you have no chance to get fresh air. It is very important to take extra precautions to protect yourself from the germs and viruses you can catch when traveling via airplanes.

Recently, Auburn University did a research study to see how long viruses and bacteria stay on planes. The researchers placed MRSA  and E. Coli on the airplane’s surfaces to see how long the viruses would last on the plane. Their research showed that some common, illness-causing germs can live for seven days (or longer) on the parts of the plane you touch most, like your tray table or your seat-back pocket.

If you don’t already know, MRSA often begins as a painful skin boil. It’s spread by skin-to-skin contact. At-risk populations include groups such as high school wrestlers, child care workers and people who live in crowded conditions and E. Coli germs. E. Coli can cause severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

However, this research study should not keep us on the ground and away from our travels. This should just make us make us wary of the surfaces we touch on planes and aware ways to prevent getting sick while traveling on planes.

Here are some ways you can avoid catching these viruses or becoming sick from the plane:

Stay hydrated

Drinking water throughout the flight can prevent you from getting sick, especially since we tend to become very dry when flying. It gets rid of dehydrating effects of air travel, which can lead to headaches, stomach problems, cramps, fatigue, and more. It also helps your immune system function better. Avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol while flying, since this will dry you out. In an airplane, the nose and the throat are the first areas that become dry.

Sipping water throughout the flight is more effective that drinking a large amount in one sitting. So make sure to have a bottle of water by your side the entire flight.

Stay moisturized

You don’t want to let your nose or your mouth become dry. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), airborne germs are one of the top-two sources of cold virus infection.

Nasal mists or saline nose solutions can help keep your nose moisturized. Also try applying some Neosporin or vaseline inside of your nostrils with a q-tip to help keep it moisturized. Having a cup of hot tea is also a good way to keep your protective mucous membranes working. These will all keep your defenses strong and functioning while flying.

Practice healthy hygiene habits

Keep your hands clean! Washing your hands and constantly sanitizing them is the best way to ward off bacteria which causes those sicknesses. Your hands are in direct contact with everything. They are the most consistent point of first contact with cold, flu, and other germs. Just by washing your hands with warm water and soap gets rid of a lot of the germs you would be spreading otherwise if you hadn’t washed your hands. Make sure to also wash your hands before any in-flight meals and after your flight as well.

I know it can be difficult to get up and wash your hands, since airplane cabins are so small. Take some alcohol based hand sanitizer (make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol) to clean your hands with before every snack and meal so you don’t have to get up and wash your hands every couple of hours.

Have some hand sanitizing wipes handy as well so you can wipe down your tray table. Wipe down your tray table before and after you use it. Wipe it down throughly because the tray table is one of the dirtiest surfaces on a plane. Personally, I think I might just leave my table in the upright position.

Take your vitamins

Take vitamins, airborne, or emergency before flying. Taking vitamin C specifically can help prevent a cold. It is an important antioxidant that keeps your body strong and healthy. Stay hydrated with orange juice and water throughout your flight. Many travelers swear by vitamins and believe they prevent colds.

Dental Hygiene

Don’t just rely on keeping your hands clean, but you should keep your mouth clean as well! It will help keep your throat moist and prevent it from getting it dry. It will also be beneficial to the person sitting next to you when you don’t have bad breath. Just make sure your mouthwash bottle complies with the airline rules. Read here for airport guidelines.

Wear a face mask

No, not a mask you wear on Halloween. I’m talking about the masks surgeons wear and everyone in China wears because of all the pollution. It might be a bit extreme, but if you truly don’t want to risk any germs coming near your mouth, then this mask is the way to go. That is if you can last behind a hot mask for more than a couple hours.

Be a good citizen– try to only travel when well.

This is common sense. If you have a cold or are coming down with the flu or have a deadly and contagious virus, try to postpone your trip, so you don’t get surrounding people on the plane sick.

Take care of yourself a couple weeks before you are leaving on your trip. Stay hydrated and visit a doctor if you do feel any symptoms coming on so you can take care of it right away. Make sure you are getting enough sleep because lack of sleep will make you more vulnerable to becoming sick.

If someone next to you is sick (coughing, sneezing, etc.), then ask your flight attendant to move you to a different seat. Either be honest, or tell them that you want to be closer to the bathroom or your family members. If moving isn’t an option, take extra measures to protect yourself. If the person behind you is sick, do not tilt your chair back all the way. And if it is the person next to you, try to cover your mouth with a blanket or jacket for the duration of the flight.

Let me know if you have any other tips of how you prevent colds while traveling!

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