Cold & Flu Turbulence -- Staying Healthy While Flying
While I was on vacation recently, I picked up a little
something that was neither on my shopping list nor on my sightseeing
itinerary - a cold! The dreaded cold and flu season is upon us, and
we need to prepare for the inevitable encounter. The old saying, "an
ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is timeless advice for
I don't know about you, but I cringe when I am sitting
near someone on a plane that has a persistent cough or is constantly
blowing their nose. I wonder if I'll be leaving the plane with more
than just my carry-ons. Our worker-bee habits push us to carry on
even when we are sick.
So how do you decide when it's best not to fly? If in
doubt you should always seek the advice of a qualified physician,
they are the best source to guide you to the right choice. However,
if for some reason you cannot see a doctor, here are some basic
guidelines to protect yourself and your fellow travelers:
Don't fly if you have
· An ear infection
· The flu
· A head cold
· Respiratory infection
· Sinus infection or pain
· High fever
If you decide to fly with some of these conditions,
you may be putting your hearing at risk. In a pressurized aircraft,
any substantial inflammation of the ear canals, sinuses, or throat
areas puts you in jeopardy of perforating your eardrum. I sadly saw
this happen when I was a flight attendant. A fellow crewmember flew
with a head cold. Her eardrum perforated mid-flight, causing her
excruciating pain. When all was said and done, she ended up being
virtually deaf in one ear, and her flying career was over. Nothing
is worth traveling for if it could make your health worse.
If you don't have any of the above but are feeling a
bit under the weather here are some tips to help you travel more
comfortably and to minimize other passengers' exposure:
· Sit alone if you can. This may be very
difficult with airline load factors at an all time high, but let the
flight attendant know that you are feeling ill, and he or she will
see what can be done.
· Limit person-to-person contact. Wash you
hands often and thoroughly. I recommend using one of the many
antibacterial soaps or hand gels that are currently on the market.
Don't shake hands, and turn away from others when you cough or
sneeze. Also, try to remember to use paper towels or tissues when
opening doors or using the phone.
· Drink a lot of water. Becoming dehydrated can
cause additional health complications. Make sure you avoid alcohol
and caffeine, as they act as diuretics. Flying dehydrates you even
when you aren't ill. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to
drink 8oz or more of water for each flight hour. The cabin
environment is like being in the desert. To keep a normal level of
hydration you should drink 20% more in fluids to compensate for the
· Take your medicine. If you are feeling
congested, make sure you take a decongestant medication to minimize
the effects of pressure changes to your ears. Don't forget to time
your dosages properly and read the labels thoroughly. Don't wait
until the last minute to take your medication - it may not be
effective when you need it most.
· Keep your nasal passages moist. Diana
Fairechild, author of Jet Smart & Jet Smarter, and webmaster for
"Healthy Flying with Diana Fairechild" (http://www.flyana.com/), recommends you keep your
nasal passages moist with vegetable oil or saline spray. This helps
block the spread of germs into your body. Here are additional
resources for staying healthy when you're on the road:
you're on the road, HotelDocs - the nationwide doctors-on-call
service - will promptly have a doctor at your hotel whenever you get
sick. Save $30 on all doctor visits when you identify yourself as a
Smarter Living member. Click here
for your I.D. card and instructions.
Health Online. Information on numerous medical and health
sources around the world.
Healthy Flying With
Diana Fairechild. Former veteran flight attendant offers
terrific advice on staying healthy in the air.
Center For Disease
Control. A comprehensive site with reliable overviews of
worldwide health risks.
On-Line. When you need to find a local doctor or hospital on the
of Travel Medicine. Search for international clinics or
Where the doctor is always in! The first "live" interactive virtual
doctor's office. For a small fee, an American Medical Association
(AMA) certified physician will answer any medical questions you may
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