Flu-Proof Your Flight

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Fend off the flu on your next
flight with these simple tips.

Last year, during the H1N1
hysteria, Corinne McDermott packed up her three kids and an arsenal of
antibacterial wipes and headed to Toronto’s airport. On the plane, she set to
work swabbing armrests, tray tables, and the window shade. Then she used diaper
wipes to go over everyone’s hands. “Did we get H1N1? No,” she says. “Did we
still get colds? Yes.”

McDermott knows a lot about
family travel—she runs Have Baby
Will Travel
, a website about traveling with babies, toddlers, and young
children. But if you’re traveling by air, especially during the flu-rampant
holiday season, it’s very difficult to survive without getting sick. Still,
there are steps you can take to help flu-proof your flight.

It’s no surprise that airplanes
are cold and flu incubators—they’re full of shared surfaces, recycled air, and
ill-mannered people. A study published in the Journal of Environmental
Health Research
revealed that travelers may be 100 times more likely to
catch a cold on a plane as anywhere else. And according to the American Lung
Association, as many as 1 in 5 Thanksgiving travelers carry the influenza
virus.

Crafty marketers have
capitalized on flu hysteria with myriad herbal remedies and travel accessories.
But most doctors say that general pre-trip wellness is your best defense. “Have
a healthy immune system before you leave,” says Vanessa Maier, M.D., M.P.H., of
Cleveland’s Case Western Medical Center. “That means eating lots of fruits and
vegetables, getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, and exercising
regularly.”

While a healthy body is better
equipped to fend off the wheezy guy to your right or the close talker to your
left, it’s also important to protect yourself from yourself. “Avoid touching
your face, nose, or mouth,” says Seattle general practitioner Bruce Kaler, M.D.
“The flu and other respiratory illnesses aren’t usually airborne. The majority
of transmission is self-inflicted.”

And yet many frequent fliers
rely, not unlike McDermott, on ritual as much as they do common sense. “If my
husband takes Emergen-C, he doesn’t get sick,” says Joanna Belbey, a New
Jersey–based financial training exec. But during the couple’s last trip to
Asia, he ran out and, says Belbey, “went down like a stone.”

Keeping yourself flu-free
through the holidays isn’t about luck or superstition. But it doesn’t have to
be an exercise in OCD, either. “A few simple steps and planning should help you
have a healthy and successful trip,” says Kaler. “Don’t let paranoia about
germs distract you from the enjoyable goals of holiday travel.”

Flu-Proof Your Flight

Fend off the flu on your next
flight with these simple tips.

Last year, during the H1N1
hysteria, Corinne McDermott packed up her three kids and an arsenal of
antibacterial wipes and headed to Toronto’s airport. On the plane, she set to
work swabbing armrests, tray tables, and the window shade. Then she used diaper
wipes to go over everyone’s hands. “Did we get H1N1? No,” she says. “Did we
still get colds? Yes.”

McDermott knows a lot about
family travel—she runs Have Baby
Will Travel
, a website about traveling with babies, toddlers, and young
children. But if you’re traveling by air, especially during the flu-rampant
holiday season, it’s very difficult to survive without getting sick. Still,
there are steps you can take to help flu-proof your flight.

It’s no surprise that airplanes
are cold and flu incubators—they’re full of shared surfaces, recycled air, and
ill-mannered people. A study published in the Journal of Environmental
Health Research
revealed that travelers may be 100 times more likely to
catch a cold on a plane as anywhere else. And according to the American Lung
Association, as many as 1 in 5 Thanksgiving travelers carry the influenza
virus.

Crafty marketers have
capitalized on flu hysteria with myriad herbal remedies and travel accessories.
But most doctors say that general pre-trip wellness is your best defense. “Have
a healthy immune system before you leave,” says Vanessa Maier, M.D., M.P.H., of
Cleveland’s Case Western Medical Center. “That means eating lots of fruits and
vegetables, getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, and exercising
regularly.”

While a healthy body is better
equipped to fend off the wheezy guy to your right or the close talker to your
left, it’s also important to protect yourself from yourself. “Avoid touching
your face, nose, or mouth,” says Seattle general practitioner Bruce Kaler, M.D.
“The flu and other respiratory illnesses aren’t usually airborne. The majority
of transmission is self-inflicted.”

And yet many frequent fliers
rely, not unlike McDermott, on ritual as much as they do common sense. “If my
husband takes Emergen-C, he doesn’t get sick,” says Joanna Belbey, a New
Jersey–based financial training exec. But during the couple’s last trip to
Asia, he ran out and, says Belbey, “went down like a stone.”

Keeping yourself flu-free
through the holidays isn’t about luck or superstition. But it doesn’t have to
be an exercise in OCD, either. “A few simple steps and planning should help you
have a healthy and successful trip,” says Kaler. “Don’t let paranoia about
germs distract you from the enjoyable goals of holiday travel.”

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