Here are some tips to make sure you reach your destination this holiday season without contracting a nasty cold or the flu.
Get a flu vaccine as soon as possible. The current vaccine is widely available in almost all communities. It takes a minimum of two weeks to develop any immunity after receiving the flu shot. Although this requires acting soon and planning ahead, it is the absolute most important factor.
Get adequate rest the night before travel. Having seven to eight hours of restorative sleep will give you a fighting chance of resisting whatever exposure you get when traveling. Travel days are usually long and hectic. If it can be avoided, you don’t want to start your day already run down.
Make sure you have a pocket-sized Kleenex, Purell, and saline nasal spray. Using hand sanitizer periodically after touching public surfaces once you settle into your seat and before eating is important. Avoid touching your own face, nose or mouth with contaminated hands. Usually illness such as the flu and other common respiratory illnesses are not airborne. They don’t fly over your left shoulder while you are looking the other way. The majority of transmission is self-inflicted. You have the germs on your hands and then eat, touch your nose or mouth.
Keep an arm’s length from other travelers and airport attendants when possible. Be aware that others may be sick and not be so mindful when they cough or sneeze. This is tough to avoid in close quarters, especially in your seat on an airplane. However an understanding and awareness could prevent you from being the unsuspecting target of their germs.
During your flight, stay well hydrated. The cabin air is usually very dry. For comfort, occasional use of saline nasal spray is good. Keeping the nasal mucosa moist and generally staying well hydrated will make you less vulnerable to the unavoidable germs you may encounter. Eat wisely and avoid alcohol during your flight.
Prolonged sitting in cramped positions puts you at risk for blood clots or phlebitis. Even a healthy person is at risk. The cramped position, lack of regular muscle movement in the lower extremities, high altitude and not drinking enough water can put you at risk. Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) is a very serious medical condition caused by blood clots in the legs. If untreated, it can lead to life threatening problems. Wear comfortable nonrestrictive clothing. Wiggle toes and feet. Stretch legs periodically if the space allows. Get up and move around the cabin briefly every 20 to 30 minutes. Changing position and physical activity can help restore sluggish circulation which puts you at risk.
If you have any chronic medical problems, consult your health care provider before your trip. Even some medications can increase your risks. Your physician may recommend a medication or aspirin prophylaxis for the trip.
Don’t let paranoia about germs or DVT distract you from the enjoyable goals of holiday travel. A few simple steps and planning should help you have a happy, healthy and successful trip.
– Dr. Bruce Kaler