Do you seem to get sick every time you fly? You’re not the only one. It’ll come as no surprise to learn that nearly two-thirds of Americans admit to continuing with their daily activities despite experiencing flu symptoms, according to a 2011 survey from ORC International. The survey also found that 45% would board a plane to go on vacation, and 40% would travel for business even if they were sick with full-blown flu symptoms.
With this many sick people out and about during the busiest travel time of the year, you must take the proper precautions to keep germs at bay. We’ve rounded up the smartest and savviest tips on how to stay healthy on your next flight.
- Choose your seat carefully. You can actually minimize your exposure to airborne illnesses with this simple strategy. Pick a window seat that is close to the front or back of the aircraft. Why? Germs are spread through human activity and movement, and a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences observed that people in these areas had the least amount of contact with other passengers.
- Skip the airport bar and stay hydrated. “Traveling can be painfully hectic and airplanes are very dry, so it is really easy to forget to drink enough water,” says Dr. Ken Redcross, a board-certified physician in internal medicine. Alcoholic drinks will further contribute to dehydration. So, any time the beverage cart comes by, he recommends you opt for water. A general rule is to drink at least 4 to 8 ounces of water for every hour in the air.
- Keep your hands clean. One of the easiest ways to prevent getting sick is regular handwashing. It reduces the number of germs on your hands and prevents them from spreading to your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you’re too far from a sink or simply want to avoid the airplane lavatory, hand sanitizer is a good second choice. The CDC recommends using a sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to be effective.
- Take travel wipes. With a million-and-one uses, travel wipes are truly indispensable. Debbie Kickham, travel expert and author of The Globetrotter’s Get-Gorgeous Guide, likes ones infused with essential oils for cleaning. She says, “Use the orange ones to disinfect your surroundings on the plane, including the tray table.” (Tray tables are one of the dirtiest surfaces you will encounter while traveling. See what other ones made the list here.)
- Pack medicine, just in case. Even with the best hygiene, the flu will remain a travel hazard when sick passengers continue to fly. So, pack smart with a flu reliever like Oscillococcinum. This homeopathic medicine works best when taken at the first sign of flu-like symptoms such as body aches, headache, fever, chills, and fatigue.* Oscillococcinum is also easy to take. No water is necessary as the sweet-tasting pellets simply melt under the tongue. The TSA-friendly individual doses are compact and can be tucked away in carry-ons and backpacks.
*These “Uses” have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.