“My body is finely tuned, like a microchip, and the flu is like a grain of sand. It could literally shut down the entire system.”
This quote belongs to Chris Trager of the hit TV series “Parks and Recreation.” Whenever flu season rolls around, I’m always reminded of it.
It should come as no surprise that airports and airplanes are some of the most germ-ridden places on earth. Anytime you’re traveling, regardless of flu season, it’s important to be mindful of your health. Below are some tips to help you stay healthy while traveling.
1. Pack alcohol-based hand sanitizer and hand wipes.
When I began to list off facts about the overall germiness of airplanes to my roommate, she asked me, “is this going to make me never want to fly on a plane again?” I paused. “Well…”
Yes, your airplane seat is teeming with bacteria. But you can decontaminate your space by using hand wipes to wipe down your seat buckle, tray table, and armrests, and overhead air vents. On turn-around flights, crew members don’t have time to sanitize the plane. They generally just do a quick pick up of trash in the aisle and seat pockets. The Federal Aviation Association doesn’t regulate how often airlines should clean their aircraft — it’s up to the airline itself. It’s difficult to find information regarding how often airplanes actually get a deep clean. According to Forbes, it can be anywhere from one to three months, which means that dozens to hundreds of flights have occurred during that time.
2. Stay hydrated.
Pack a reusable water through security and fill it up at every chance you get. Travel dehydration often occurs after a flight. Due to the cabin’s low humidity and recycled air, it is easy to become more dehydrated than usual, especially since people tend to limit their water intake on a flight. Dehydration weakens your immune system and can cause dry eyes, headaches, and dry skin — I always pack a small bottle of lotion. Stay healthy while traveling by remembering to take care of your body, and take steady sips of water throughout the flight.
3. Pack necessary medications.
Make sure you bring any necessary prescription medications. If you tend to be hyper-vigilant about not getting sick while traveling, you may find it worth it to check into the benefits of Vitamin C supplements and Airborne tablets. If anything, the placebo effect of popping a Vitamin C chewable might make you feel like your being proactive about your health. Pack these and other essentials in your carry-on for safekeeping.
4. Bring healthy snacks.
Overpriced, unhealthy airport snacks (like chips and candy) won’t do your immune system any good. Super salty snacks can make you feel even more dehydrated. I always “snack prep” before going on a trip. My favorite travel snack list includes: Nuts (cashews or walnuts), crackers (healthy crackers like Almond Thins or Triscuits), Skinnypop popcorn, bananas, oranges (one time the TSA confiscated my orange, so beware of that risk), KIND granola bars, and applesauce (if it is 3.4 ounces or less).
I can’t stress this enough. Try to sleep on a long flight. If you have a hard time falling asleep, check into melatonin supplements for your best shot at staying healthy while traveling. Once you get to your destination, you might be tempted to start your days early and stay out all night. After all, it’s exciting to be in a new place, and there’s so much to see and do! But if you let your body become run-down due to lack of sleep, you’ll spend your time being cranky and increase your risk of getting sick.