Fliers' Survival Guide for Airports, Planes
Taking some simple precautions can help ensure a safe and healthy arrival.
Boost Your Defenses
Holiday flights are often packed, so switching seats is not always an option. This means if your neighbor has a cold or flu, you may be out of luck. "If someone is coughing and sneezing within three seats in any direction, you may get infected," Powell says.
So does that mean you are definitely going to catch it? Not necessarily. The best offense is always a good defense, Powell says.
Use saline nasal spray before and after the flight. "The plane air is so dry and that dries out your mucus membranes, which reduces your resistance to infection, but keeping these membranes moist with saline spray may help."
A Neti pot -- a ceramic pot that uses a salt water solution to flush out the nasal cavity -- can also rinse out viruses and pollen after a flight. Supplements of vitamin C may boost your immune system.
Seeing another passenger wearing a face mask may cause some alarm, but in other countries, people have no qualms about wearing a mask in public. "This can offer some protection for other passengers if you are sick, or for you if other passengers are ill."
BYOP (Bring Your Own Pillow)
Gone are the days when airlines would give weary travelers blankets and pillows for free.
That is a good thing as far as germs are concerned. Instead of buying a blanket or pillow on the plane, bring your own and the same holds for headphones, Zimring says. This eliminates the yuck factor.
The air on the plane is very dry, so it is important to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water. The benefits are exponential. "This also will assure that you get up and pee," Zimring says.
"Moving your legs by walking to and from the bathroom can help prevent 'economy class syndrome,' also known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots in your legs that develop after long flights," says Zimring, who wrote Healthy Travel: Don't Travel Without It. Remember to buy the water after you pass through security or risk confiscation.
Drinking water can help prevent DVT, but if you are at high risk for these blood clots, other precautions are needed.
"If you are over 60, obese, pregnant, have a history of heart disease, have had surgery on a lower extremity within the last several weeks, have varicose veins, or a history of these blood clots, see your doctor or a travel doctor, especially if the flight is longer than two hours," Zimring says.
Compression hose may help reduce your risk of DVT while you fly. "Exercises, such as keeping your feet flat on the ground and bringing your heel up and down, can also improve circulation," Zimring says.
You should also skip the mile-high happy hour. It's best to avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine while flying. "Alcohol is dehydrating and so is caffeine and so is the air on the plane," Zimring says. "You are better off drinking plain water."