Do you get a cold every time you fly? Do you wonder how flight attendants can pick up people’s trash, deal with sniffling travelers, and still not get sick? With the holidays quickly approaching, I’m here to make your travel plans happy and healthier.
Planes are kind of a “toxic soup” of chemicals, germs, and bacteria. The dry, recycled air is the perfect storm to spread illness when people cough or sneeze. Although cleaning crews do come on after every flight and before the next one, most airlines are trying to turn those planes around so quickly that corners are often cut. You’ll often see things left behind in the seat pockets, and the only place I’ve seen the tray tables wiped down on a quick turn is in Mexico. Germs can make you sick, and too many toxic chemicals can disrupt your immune system as well. I try to avoid being on the planes when they are being cleaned because the industrial strength cleaning products that they spray are so noxious that you can smell them halfway down the jet bridge. No way do I want to be breathing those in!
Knowing all this, what can you do to boost your immune system when you fly to avoid getting sick?
Many flight attendants I talked to recommended the following supplements, herbs, and dissolvable tablets. Supplements can help kick your immune system into gear, and you might consider taking some of these (Emergen C or Airborne) preventatively.
- Vitamin C
- Black Elderberry
- Oregano Oil
- Olive Leaf Extract
- Zinc Lozenges
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Manuka Honey
- Emergen C
Essential oils can be a great addition to your immunity arsenal. Essential oils are small enough that they can be included in your carry on without taking up too much space in your precious one-quart bag of liquids. I personally use DoTerra’s On Guard, and another great one is Young Living’s Thieves. Both of these oils are blends designed to have antibacterial properties and can be taken internally or used to clean. I also like oregano oil to boost your immune system. It’s like a natural antibiotic without all the side effects.
Use Common Sense
Staying hydrated is extremely important. This means don’t get on an airplane without a bottle of water. Yes, we do have it on board but not enough for the amount you should be drinking. I always suggest bringing a stainless bottle to refill, but if you’re short on time, just grab a bottle from the nearest newsstand or coffee shop. One bottle of plastic isn’t going to kill you. This also means avoiding alcohol on the plane. Alcohol has shown to be an immune suppressant as well as a disrupter of our circadian rhythms (source). It goes without saying here that getting plenty of rest helps too. Wash your hands often, and if you aren’t able to do this, you can bring sanitizer wipes, which are great to wipe down your tray tables and even use in your hotel room.
A Few Interesting Ideas
You can also try using a saline spray or nasal gel. One flight attendant I talked to swore by putting Neosporin up her nose. Many Asian passengers wear masks on the plane. These aren’t commonplace here in the US, but it makes sense, especially if you have a compromised immune system. Another one of my flight attendant friends always eats yogurt when she feels like she’s getting a cold. I think the probiotics in the yogurt definitely help. Avoiding stress was another suggestion. This one is easier said than done, but your seat on the plane is a great place to meditate.
If All Else Fails
One of the best things you can do if you are sick is to stay home. When you are sick, you spread your germs, and it makes everyone around you sick, too. Just the other day I had a lady ask me for a blanket because she said she felt like she was coming down with something and she was cold. All I could think was, why did she get on this plane? This definitely applies to crew members, too (although many airlines have super strict attendance policies where flight attendants come to work sick for fear of getting fired) which is all the more reason you need to take extra special care of yourself whenever you get on a plane.
An Inside Tip
When you see a flight attendant walking through the aisle, and he or she refuses to take your trash, we aren’t ignoring you. A lot of times we’ve just washed our hands (you know how long those bathroom lines can be) and we don’t want to grab something dirty ’til we grab some gloves and a trash bag. For us wearing gloves and washing our hands is our first defense against all those germs we encounter every day.
One more thing: Although I don’t really like to take them, decongestants should always be in your travel arsenal. If you have any kind of congestion, stuffy nose, or sinus thing going on, these can save your eardrums. You may not feel anything until you’re up in the air, but trust me, the pressure during descent can be excruciating. I’ve talked to more than a few flight attendants who have perforated or burst an eardrum flying with blocked ears. I made this mistake once on vacation in Spain, thinking I didn’t need to bring decongestants since I was traveling for fun instead of work. I ended up with a blocked ear and a terrible ear infection which required me to stay in bed with my ear drops in and my head tilted while my girlfriends were out having dinner and drinks. No fun.
As for Me…
After 26 years of flying, I rarely get sick anymore. If I do, it’s usually because I’m run down. Ironically, as I’m editing this post I came down with a head cold. My biggest go to’s are getting enough rest, staying hydrated, avoiding sugar (read more here), and washing my hands as much as I can. I also love Whole Foods immunity shot from their juice bar.
What about you? Do you get sick when you fly? Do you have any other tips I haven’t listed? Comment below and let me know!