Holiday season means it’s the travel season. And winter colds may be merrily jumping around an airplane you’re travelling in. And not just viruses are lurking, deadly drug resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, have been found to colonize airplane surfaces. So here’s a list of things you should consider to avoid getting sick when you fly this Christmas break:
Open the air vent and aim it IN FRONT of your face
The air will help blow pathogens away from your respiratory tree.
Don’t sit next to someone who appears sick
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the average passenger does not want to appear rude and will suck it up, literally. If your flight has you sitting next to a passenger who is coughing up phlegm in your direction and no other seats are available, considering changing flights or cover your nose and mouth with a mask or sweater.
Wash your hands and avoid touching your face
A recent study from Auburn university found deadly pathogens like E. coli and MRSA to survive for up to & DAYS on surfaces surrounding your airplane seat. Tray tables, arm rests, bathroom doors, drinking fountain buttons and even the air vent button can house bacteria so wash your hands after touching any of these surfaces.
Wipe down your surrounding areas
Antimicrobial wipes can help protect you against nasty bugs on any of the aforementioned surfaces.
Avoid sitting in aisle seats, especially near the lavatory
People stand in line to use the bathroom and breathe and cough on you while you’re trying to enjoy your movie or nap. The window seat may be safer.
Carry-on some of your prescriptions
Make sure to have half of your medications in your suitcase and half with you in your carry-on in case the flight gets delayed or you lose one of your bags.
Use your own pillow when you sleep
Your body loves your own personal microbiome and airplane pillows may carry germs you don’t wish to keep. Remember to bring an extra pillowcase so you can change it out before you use it again on the flight back.
Eat a balanced diet prior to travel, and every day for that matter
Fruits, vegetables, protein, complex carbs and fiber help your immune system. A strong immune system can help you fight some of the worst of pathogens.
We forget to drink water when we travel and moist mucous membranes in our noses and mouths are less likely to pick up bacteria and viruses than dry ones.
Be well rested prior to travel
Conversely, poor sleep will weaken your immune system.
Remember to reach out to your medical provider a few weeks before you travel in case he or she goes on vacation as well. Any medications that need to be adjusted or refilled should be done prior to travel or you running out.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician