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Healthy Plane Travel
Flying is the most popular form of long-distance travel. It’s convenient, fast, and increasingly affordable. And while flying isn’t always the most comfortable experience, there are several steps you can take before, during, and after your flight to make it safer, healthier, and less stressful.
To help ensure a safe and healthy flight, take these steps prior to boarding.
What to Pack
Bring a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer to prevent picking up germs often prevalent on planes. Small packets of powdered drink mix make it easy to stay hydrated and avoid sodas. Emergen-C is a smart choice, packed full of essential electrolytes and chock-full of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps boost your immune system to fight off in-flight bugs.
Bring your own filtered water bottle and a neck pillow (those filled with pellets pack very well) to make you more comfortable as compared to flat pillows (often covered with germs) airlines provide. Lavender-scented pillows will help you relax.
A few high-quality protein bars and packets of trail mix are much healthier than in-flight snacks. Check the sugar content and look for bars low in sugar but high in protein and vitamins. For longer flights, pack a pair of slippers or flip-flops in your carry-on to aid circulation and comfort. A sleep mask may help you rest on longer flights, and also helps convince your brain it’s time to sleep by filtering out sunlight during daytime flights.
What to Wear
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and shoes you can slip off easily. Dress in layers. You’ll be ready for a change in climate and any temperature extremes in-flight. Avoid tight socks. Even on short flights, they can restrict circulation to the legs and feet.
How to Prepare
Airline travelers are 20 percent more likely to catch the common cold. A few days before flying, take extra vitamin C and B-complex vitamins to boost your immune system. For longer flights or multiple connections, eat a meal containing lean protein (chicken, seafood, fish, or eggs), whole grains (toast, hot cereal, or dense bread), and water-rich produce (watermelon, salads, or citrus). You’ll stay fuller and more hydrated and may to able to skip unhealthy airline food altogether.
Take steps to stay healthy and comfortable during your flight to avoid a post-travel slump. If possible, choose a seat at the front or rear of your section for more leg room. One in every 4,500 flyers will develop a blood clot within 8 weeks of flying. People who fly for more than 4 hours at a time are more likely to develop blood clots.
To boost circulation on longer flights, walk to the bathroom or up and down the aisles frequently. Yoga or gentle stretches every 30 minutes decrease your chances of blood clots and muscle cramps. Use hand sanitizer or cleansing wipes to clean your armrest, seat belt buckle, and other frequently touched hard surfaces.
Drink from your own filtered water bottle, as mentioned above. Note: The EPA discovered 1 out of 7 planes had tap water that did not meet federal standards and contained the bacteria coliform and E. Coli. This contaminated water may be running in the bathrooms and galley area where food and drinks are prepared, so use bottled water to brush your teeth. Wash your hands frequently and use a paper towel to turn off faucets and open doors.
A Word About Dehydration
Dehydration can be a huge in-flight problem. The air in planes is extremely dry. While people are most comfortable at a humidity of about 50 percent, the humidity in planes can be as low as 1 percent. This can lead to more rapid dehydration and is far less noticeable than you might think.
To stay hydrated, avoid sodas, alcohol, and caffeine prior to and during flight. Drink 8 ounces of water for every hour of flight. Apply lotion to your hands, face, and feet on longer flights to combat dry skin. Forget salty snacks and eat salad, fruit, and other water-rich foods instead.
What You’re Breathing in May Harm You
As safe as flying is, there are risks involved with spending several hours in a confined space with stale, recycled air and strangers who may or may not be carrying germs. There is poor air circulation inside the aircraft. When planes sit on the ground, and the ventilation systems are shut off, pathogens begin to spread and settle. 50 percent of the air on a plane is recirculated. The rest is fresh air cleaned by a filtration system. Air filters in need of cleaning or replacement often help to spread germs during and between flights.
Even when people wash their hands in plane bathrooms, microbes and pathogens are often left in water on wet counters or other surfaces. Most illnesses are spread by direct contact, like coughing and/or sneezing on people. Diseases controlled by vaccinations in the U.S. can be spread on a plane. It takes just 1 non-vaccinated person to spread potentially life-threatening illnesses. Bring a medical grade mask to cover your face and protect it from sick people you may sit near. Although pillows and blankets are cleaned regularly, there is no way to know what germs lurk behind, embedded in the material. Using the headphones airlines provide carries the same risk of exposure as liquid-based pathogens left behind by another person. Bring your own headphones, blankets, or pillow to prevent exposure to these hidden health dangers.
Avoiding Jet Lag
Jet lag can be a real concern, especially if you’re traveling several time zones away. You can take several steps to lessen its effects. Take a second watch or travel clock set to your home time. This will keep you aware of when you should be sleeping or awake. The best rule of thumb is to sleep in-flight if you would be sleeping at home. Stay awake otherwise. For a few days prior to your trip, adjust your sleep pattern by one or two hours at a time to be closer to your destination time zone. If possible, schedule your flight so that you arrive in the evening and go to bed as soon as you get to your hotel. The extra rest won’t hurt and you’ll wake up in sync with your environment.
Snakes on a Plane
Should you find yourself on a plane with one or more snakes, you can usually identify the venomous variety by their hear tor diamond-shaped heads. Non-venomous snakes generally have heads continuous with their bodies. If you spot a snake on your plane, ask to speak to the nearest Samuel L. Jackson. If the snake is swallowing your seatmate’s head, it’s best to ask to be moved to another seat. You just might get a free upgrade to First Class.
What you do immediately following your flight, especially a long one, can be just as important as the steps you take before and during your trip. Drinks as much water as possible as soon as possible after landing to replenish your body’s supply. Eating water-rich foods will help, too. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing to aid in stretching and circulation post-flight.
Avoid alcohol or caffeine if traveling to a distant time zone. These may affect your adjustment and further dehydrate you. Forget socks and wear comfortable shoes. Your feet and calves may be swollen due to sitting for extended periods. If on a layover, walk outdoors to stretch, aid circulation, and get fresh air. Avoid sitting for long periods at the airport. Consider checking your carry-on to avoid any soreness from lugging around that extra weight.
Flying is the fastest way to travel. By taking these steps, you can ensure your journeys are more comfortable, safe, and pleasurable, especially if you fly frequently or for great distances.