How to Maintain Your Health During a Flight. Small Space, Big Germs.

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In-flight Health

I’m just landed from an incredible ten-day trip to India, staying in Rishikesh and enjoying a transformation and wellness retreat with Namaste Retreats India. There were long walks, yoga, meditation and much reflection and introspection. Yet, despite all the uplifting moments shared and the inspiration with which I return home, I find myself struggling with a chest infection and cough I must have picked up on the way home. Actually, I can’t remember returning from a long-haul trip without picking up a bug of sorts. This prompted me to take a look at in-flight health – ‘Small Space, Big Germs: How to Maintain Your Health During a Flight‘.

Before you fly, your In-flight Health

Preparing for any flight demands careful planning. You’ll need to pack clothes that are suitable for the weather where you’re going and organise all your toiletries and liquids to ensure your carry-on can easily pass through security. You check and recheck your bag to make sure you packed your passport and money. However, once you are inside the plane, it is easy to sit back, turn on the in-flight entertainment system, and forget the most important thing—to take care of your health. Whether it is a small city hopper or a giant long-haul flight, aeroplanes are small places filled with a lot of people. A lot of people also means a lot of germs. With all these germs, what steps can you take to maintain your health during a flight?

What steps can you take to maintain your health during a flight?

It’s All About Water

To stay healthy, you need to stay hydrated. The average humidity on a commercial airliner is 20% or below. Comparing this to the humidity level in an average home, which sits at 30% or above, the air you breathe during a flight is very dry. The longer the flight, the more you may notice that your nose, throat, mouth, and eyes start to feel dry and sore. When your nose and throat dry out, they lose their ability to catch bacteria and stop it from entering your body.

The simplest way to keep your body hydrated is to drink plenty of water. Sip water throughout the flight. Pack an empty water bottle that you can fill once you have passed through security. Many airports have water-filling stations near the boarding gates. If you cannot find a place to fill your bottle, ask the flight attendant to fill it for you once you board the plane.

Does it have to be water?

During the flight, avoid drinking beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine. If you are craving something with a bit more flavour, choose fruit juice rather than a soda or a coffee. Another option is to pack electrolyte powder or tablets to dissolve into water. These give you the extra flavour you are looking for while keeping your body healthy. Consuming drinks that contain electrolytes during a flight has been proven to help prevent blood clotting and lower the risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis (DVT).

More Hydration Tips

Just as you prepare your luggage before a flight, you need to prepare your body. In the days leading up to your flight, make sure to drink plenty of water. You want your body fully hydrated before you board the plane. It’s also a good idea to pack water filtration bottles to bring with you to ensure that no matter where you are, your drinking water will be free of bad bacteria. And if you’re prone to certain water sensitivities, there are a number of different water filters that can help prevent sickness during your travels. To combat dry nose, pack saline solution or another type of nasal spray to use during the flight. Spray the solution into your nose every hour to help replace the moisture lost to the dry air.

If you wear contact lenses, it is a good idea to remove them before boarding, as they can dry your eyes out further. If you do need to remove contacts lenses while onboard, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water before touching your eyes.

Fuel Your Body

Not only is it important to make sure you are hydrated before boarding the plane, but you also want to make sure your body has the proper nutrition. In the days before your flight, try to eat nutritious meals that are high in protein and fibre, as well as plenty of fresh vegetables. A healthy diet helps to strengthen your immune system and enable you to better fight off infections. Additionally, try taking a multivitamin that contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin A to give your immune system an extra boost.

Be Aware of Bacteria

While we may not be able to see it, an aeroplane is full of germs and bacteria. An online travel company, Travel Math, conducted a study to discover the dirtiest places on a plane. They found that the toilet, the tray table, the seat belt, and the air vent were the four areas that contained the most bacteria. Many commercial airlines have fast turnaround times. Once an aeroplane lands, it is quickly refuelled and prepared to depart for a new destination. The flight crew does not have enough time to clean every surface inside the plane before the next flight boards. This means you might come into contact with surfaces such as tray tables, armrests, and door handles that have not been properly sanitized before you boarded the plane.

To keep your seat clean and free of bacteria, bring alcohol wipes and hand sanitiser. As soon as you find your seat, take out your alcohol wipes and wipe down all the surfaces around you, including your seat belt and tray table. When you go to the toilet, rather than touching the door handles with your bare hands, use an alcohol wipe to open the door. Use your hand sanitiser when you are finished in the bathroom and before eating a meal or snack. Pack a travel pillow and your own set of headphones. The pillows and headphones provided by the airline are not new, and there is no way of knowing how many people have used them before you.

The toilet, tray table, seat belt, and air vent are the four areas on a plane that contain the most bacteria.

In-flight Health

Location Matters

To minimise the chance of catching germs and bacteria from fellow passengers, you need to choose the correct seat. A study published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Science argues that sitting in a window seat gives you the best chance of staying healthy. Those sitting in aisle seats come into close and frequent contact with other passengers and flight crew as people walk up and down the aisle. Sitting in a window seat also reduces the chance that others might touch your arm and headrests as they walk by.

Try to avoid seats close to the bathroom. Not only are the bathrooms one of the dirtiest areas in an aeroplane, but they are also where most people congregate. Sitting near the bathroom places you in close contact with the other passengers waiting in line to use the toilet.

If you find yourself in the unlucky position of sitting next to someone who is sneezing or coughing, make sure your overhead air vent is turned on and the air is blowing away from your face. Another way to minimize your contact with people is to board the plane only after most of the other passengers have boarded. Waiting in a long line to board will place you near many people and increase your chances of being exposed to someone who is ill.

Be Happy and Focus on the Destination

Finally, relax and enjoy your trip. Stress and anxiety weaken your immune system and leave you feeling tired and weak. With a little planning and preparation, you can fly comfortably knowing you are doing your best to keep your body healthy.

In-flight Health

**This is a guest post, with Images sourced on Pixabay.

Author Bio: Phil McNamara is originally from California, where the need for water filtration equipment is vast. After college, he dove into the growing problem of clean water both nationally and worldwide. After many years in the industry, he found and aligned his knowledge of the industry with theirs to help educate and inform consumers. This is Phil’s first post on The Incidental Tourist.

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