Airplanes are notorious breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria, and with sometimes less than 45 minutes to get passengers off the plane, do a quick tidy up, and then board the next mob of passengers – a thorough sanitizing of the aircraft seems unlikely.
While some airlines are better than others about cleaning up the aircraft between flights, none of them do a thorough sanitizing during peak travel times. Deep cleaning of the airplane – if it occurs – happens during off hours, when much of the damage is already done.
By the time you’ve sat down in your seat, you’ve already touched the same surfaces as hundreds of other people, and as anyone who’s ever used a public restroom can attest, people aren’t always the most hygienic of creatures. Whether you are flying for business or for pleasure, here are some simple rules to follow on how to stay healthy while flying inspired by Dr. Mom to ensure you stay well during your trip.
If you start handing out anti-bacterial wipes and surgical masks at the beginning of every flight and you freak out about every vomiting child or coughing adult, you will actually become more susceptible to illness than if you calm down a little bit.
In our world, a little germophobia isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. However, stress weakens your body’s immune system. In fact, stress is believed to be one of the main factors in persistent illness.
If you simply can’t get on a plane without seeing your fellow passengers as anything more than giant talking germs, consult with your physician or naturopath to discuss sedative or supplement options.
You can’t control what other people do, but you can take positive steps yourself. Washing your hands is probably the easiest way to avoid illness. Your hands touch surfaces that are covered with germs, and if you are not washing them properly, you can transfer those germs to your eyes, nose, and mouth with a single touch. Most people, even the obsessive compulsive hand washer, are doing it wrong.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends washing your hands in this way. First, wet your hands with clean, running water. Then turn off the tap. Next, lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
You should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. This is the step most people fail to complete, but it is the most crucial in removing microbes. Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice to help you get the full benefits of hand washing. Next, rinse your hands under clean, running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dryer.
(Yes, you were just instructed on how to wash your hands. You got this.)
Surfaces are the number one carrier of germs and bacteria, so the fewer surfaces you touch, the less likely you are to pick up something nasty.
Use a napkin or paper towel to open doors whenever possible, and do your best to avoid touching any unnecessary surfaces, like ticketing counters and arm rests.
Some contact with surfaces is unavoidable, so it’s a good idea to carry anti-bacterial wipes and wipe surfaces down.
Pay special attention to the arm rests in your seat, your seat belt buckles, your tray table, and your sun shade.
As mentioned before, stress is one of the main factors in whether you will contract an illness or not. As a newly established entrepreneur, you already most likely have a Type A personality: you’re competitive, you’re achievement oriented, and you are probably a bit of a perfectionist. Your Type B counterpart is more laid-back and enjoys a much lower incidence of illness.
Finding ways to minimize your stress can help keep you well, both physically and mentally. Frustration will always be a part of the flying experience, from apathetic check-in clerks to that annoying passenger who wants to tell you his life story. Consider taking advantage of one of the airport’s massage chairs to lower your stress and help you relax.
Bring your favorite music or a book to keep you occupied during your flight. Don’t forget to bring the traveler’s best friend: ear plugs.
Food consumption is a major cause of airborne illness, and 12% of commercial airlines tested positive for E. Coli bacteria in a random sampling. E. Coli, found in…you know, is responsible for some of the worst traveling illnesses, with symptoms like diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.
If your flight is longer than you can possibly stand to be without something to drink, purchase a beverage once you’ve passed through security. Avoid eating prepared foods while on the plane. Even with the strictest of safeguards in place, it only takes a small amount of bacteria to make you sick.
If you do need to eat on the plane, consider taking light, healthy snacks that you’ve prepared at home. Celery sticks, carrots, and other vegetables help replenish your system without making you feel sluggish. Before you reach for that bag of chips, consider that sleepy feeling you’ll have afterwards.
Processed foods do nothing to help your immune system, and they may actually hurt it. Choose foods that you have prepared yourself and that will benefit your body.
Air travel can be grueling on your body, especially cross-country and international flights, so it’s important to get up and move around when possible. When the captain turns off the seatbelt sign, get up and take a stroll down the aisle to relieve tension and keep your blood flowing.
Blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition brought about by long periods of immobility. The deep veins in your legs have one-way valves, where blood can only move towards the heart.
Sitting for long periods of time keeps blood “stuck” in the legs, and the only way to counteract this is to contract your leg muscles. When moving about the cabin isn’t an option, simply tap your feet. Raising and lowering your toes off the floor is all it takes to contract your calf muscles.
Dehydration is a serious risk factor when traveling. The pressurized air inside the cabin of the aircraft has a much lower humidity than most of us are used to. In addition to drinking plenty of water, there are a few things you can do to keep your body hydrated. Use a moisturizing hand sanitizer.
Most hand sanitizers contain alcohol, which dries out the skin and leave microscopic weaknesses in your skin, which is your body’s greatest line of defense against infection.
Opt for a sanitizer that replenishes moisture instead of deplete it. Mucus membranes also take a hard hit in dry air conditions, so consider using either a saline spray for nasal passages or a gentle moisturizer around the nostrils.
Whether you’re flying for fun or for work, it’s important to stay healthy. Just like you would write a plan for your business, plan for your trip. With these simple tips on how to stay healthy while flying the high skies from Dr. Mom, you can be sure to arrive at your destination happy and healthy.