Doctor provides tips to avoid getting sick on your vacation plane trip
By Sherry Spause
Travel Advantage Network Writer
It’s the sound you dread.
You carefully tuck your carry-on beneath the seat in front of you and settle back into your airline seat indulging in visions of an icy Mai Tai on a white, sandy beach when you first hear it.
Casually, you check out the passenger next to you. Irritated nose, swollen, watery eyes and a crumpled, moist tissue clutched in his hand.
And it’s a five-hour flight.
It’s a scenario that plays out regularly on flights across the nation and one that’s a personal experience for Dr. Michael Zimring, the director of the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, Md.
His tale takes place on a flight from Seattle next to a passenger who couldn’t stop coughing.
“I didn’t have a mask to slap over his face,” says Zimring. “What do you do? Ask the person to step outside?
“That’s a big problem. You’re stuck. You can’t do much.”
You may not avoid contracting the virus when one sits right next to you, but Zimring assures his patients there’s much you can do to keep yourself healthy on your vacation flight.
It starts with sleep.” For several nights beforehand, get a good night’s sleep,” says Zimring. Last-minute packing into the wee hours the night before you depart will leave you run-down and susceptible to illness.
Next comes good nutrition.” Get a nice sandwich and bring it with you to eat (on the plane),” Zimring says, “and bring water, too.” Often airline snacks don’t provide enough sustenance or represent healthy options. And water, well that’s the next critical item on Zimring’s list. He says it’s important to stay hydrated, not only to diminish the effects of dry cabin air on your body, but to avoid the possibility of deep vein thrombosis, serious blood clots that can develop into more serious health conditions.” Drink plenty of water to make you get up and walk to the bathroom,” explains Zimring.
Walking keeps your blood circulating and helps prevent it from settling in your lower extremities, a likely place for DVT to occur. People who are obese, senior citizens and women who are pregnant are more susceptible than most to DVT.
So, you plan to walk regularly on the plane, you’ve packed a healthy sandwich and bottle of water and you made sure to get a good night’s sleep.
Ready to board? Not quite. You need a small bottle of hand sanitizer.
Germs can remain on objects for up to 20 minutes and while you’re walking down the aisle, it’s easy to grab seats, overhead bins or walls for balance. So even if a passenger with the flu sits 10 rows back, a visit to the bathroom might bring you in contact with his virus. Zimring even recommends avoiding airline pillows and blankets (they’re sometimes unwashed), using the bathroom paper towel to open the door before you leave the facilities and getting a flu shot.
Some people believe any plan to avoid viruses on flights should include homeopathic remedies, but Zimring says he can neither support nor condemn them. “People believe in them,” he says. “My wife takes Airborne. I can’t say I don’t believe in it. I just don’t know.”
What he does know is just about everything to keep travelers healthy, and that’s why he’s put it in a book: “Healthy Travel: Don’t Travel Without It.” The book takes travelers through pre-flight check-ups to stress-free travel to medical emergencies, among other topics.
But even if you think of everything, nothing will place you at greater risk to catch a virus than the runny nose, rumbling cough and pile of wet tissues sitting next to you on your flight.
“If you’re sitting next to them,” Zimring says, “you’ll probably catch it.”
Brought to you by: