By J. Cole

With tightly packed bodies in close proximity for long periods of time, airplanes can feel like flying Petri dishes, perfect breeding grounds for colds and other viruses.  This might be enough to make many people swear off flying altogether, but the good news is that there are several easy ways to reduce your risk of getting sick.  Here are five simple tips for staying healthy on your next plane trip.

  1. Build up your immune system ahead of time.
    It’s more difficult to fend off an illness if you’re already feeling tired and rundown.  So, in the days leading up to your flight, be sure to eat nutritious meals and get plenty of sleep.  Prime your immune system so that when it’s time to travel, you’ll be starting from a healthy baseline.  If you’re already sick, consult your doctor before traveling.
  2. Use vitamins, herbs and nutritional supplements wisely.
    Research suggests that some herbs, such as Echinacea, and certain vitamins might help to strengthen the immune system.  Using these natural remedies could help you stay healthy while traveling.  However, you should always check with your doctor before using any vitamins, herbs or supplements, in case of allergies or adverse reactions with any other medications you might be taking.
  3. Avoid red-eye flights.
    It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get a good night’s sleep on a red-eye, or overnight, flight.  Because insufficient sleep can make you more susceptible to illness, you should avoid booking a red-eye flight if possible.  However, if you’re traveling overseas, there might be no choice.  In that case, do your best to get as much sleep as possible on the flight.  Wear an eye mask, exercise before getting on the plane and avoid caffeinated drinks before and during the flight.
  4. Drink plenty of water and consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation.
    It’s easy to get dehydrated in the dry atmosphere of an airplane cabin, and being dehydrated can make it more difficult to fight off a cold or virus.  Drink plenty of water throughout your flight.  Drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages in moderation.  If you have a beer or a cup of coffee on the plane, drink an equal amount of water.  Excessively salty foods can also dehydrate, so you should limit these as well.
  5. Wash your hands often.
    Washing your hands is important no matter where you are, but in the germ-filled cabin of an airplane, good hand hygiene is crucial.  Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for those occasions when you don’t have access to soap and running water.  Wash your hands before touching your mouth, nose and eyes.

Flying can expose you to whatever germs your fellow travelers are carrying, so it’s important to build up your own defenses.  Following these tips could help you avoid bringing home a nasty bug as a travel souvenir.

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