Planes, Cruise Ships, and Germs
Boost your chances of healthy travel by taking a few preventive steps.
Flu Season Coming continued...
4. Consider getting a flu shot before you travel. Some experts like
Schaffner worry that this year's flu season may be harsher than in the last
It takes two weeks to get maximum immune protection from the flu shot,
Schaffner says. But getting the shot late can still confer some
protection. "From the moment you get the inoculation, your immune system
begins to rev up in response to the vaccine."
"Although colds are a bother," Schaffner adds, "influenza is the
viral infection that will put you into the hospital. It's the one that can get
complicated by pneumonia, it's the one that year in and year out, on average,
causes 36,000 deaths each year. It's the serious one. Get vaccinated. Protect
yourself. Then you'll be a good citizen on the airplane and at home. You won't
transmit influenza to anyone else, either."
What Doesn't Help?
Does wearing a mask help to protect you from colds and flu on planes? "I
think that's going a little overboard. I don't think that's going to make a
difference," Brunette says. "It doesn't seem realistic to me that
people should be wearing masks on an airplane."
Schaffner doesn't believe that blankets or pillows transmit germs, either.
"It's never been shown, and it's highly unlikely," he says. If so,
"we would be in a hard place. We would be anxious about staying at hotels
and being in any kind of group circumstance, if that were the
What about taking popular over-the-counter products, such as Airborne?
This herbal cold remedy claims to help prevent colds by
boosting the immune system. Its ingredients include vitamin C, zinc, and
No need to buy these remedies, according to Schaffner. He says that
he's "skeptical" of these types of products because they
lack good studies to show effectiveness. "The quip is: 'In God we
trust. All others must provide data.'"
Battling Noroviruses on Cruise Ships
If you're on a cruise, don't ruin your trip with much concern about germs,
experts say. But realize that in the semi-confined quarters of a cruise ship,
contagious illnesses can spread fast, particularly noroviruses. These viruses
cause what many call the "stomach flu." Typical symptoms of nausea,
vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping last for one to two days, according to