Jumping on an airplane and jetting away can get you where you need to go fast, but in the close quarters of a jet cabin, you'll be exposed to every cough and sneeze of your fellow passengers. To avoid arriving at your destination with symptoms of a cold or other illness, follow these tips to reduce your exposure to germs on the plane.
A healthy diet with lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can boost your immune system and help you stay healthy during travel. There are also some herbal supplements that may help by easing symptoms of colds, shortening the length of time that you're sick, or preventing symptoms of illness altogether. A product like Airborne, which claims to prevent colds, has itself not been proven effective, but some of the ingredients in Airborne have been studied and might help keep colds at bay. Some travelers swear by them, even though studies don’t appear to back them up. Popular remedies include:
• Vitamin C. Studies are unclear about whether vitamin C can actually prevent colds, but getting extra vitamin C when you're sick may help you feel better sooner.
• Echinacea. Echinacea is a popular herbal supplement used to boost immunity, though, again, research studies have not specifically found it effective in preventing colds.
• Zinc. While this essential mineral may not prevent a cold, if you get sick, zinc may help you feel better faster.
Once on the plane, be sure to practice the same basic hygiene principals and techniques that you would use on the ground to minimize the germs you pick up and to reduce your risk of getting sick. You should:
• Wash your hands. "Always wash your hands before eating and after using the toilet," says Greg T. Snider, MD, a physician at the Lexington Clinic's Occupational and Travel Services Department in Kentucky. You might also carry a small bottle of hand-sanitizing gel for times when you can't get to a sink, and sanitize your hands more frequently if anyone around you is showing symptoms of an illness. Some experts actually prefer SANITIZING hands OVER washing them as plane water has had some bacterial issues in the past.
• DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE. This is a good idea in normal circumstances, but especially on a plane, where you don’t know who sat in the seat before you. "Never touch your face, mouth, or nose with unwashed hands and always wash your hands thoroughly after performing any personal hygiene task," says Dr. Snider.
• Switch your seat if possible. If your flight isn't packed, look for a seat by yourself, away from other passengers, to limit your contact with germs. It might also be a good idea for you to wipe down your seat, and anything else you touch on the plane, with an antibacterial wipe.
• Consider a mask. If you or someone you're traveling with is sick and coughing, you might want to bring a surgical mask to prevent the spread of germs to other people on the plane.