In a study of 2,000 travelers, more than 23 percent claimed that they had fallen ill as a result of airplane travel. It’s a common complaint—and a logical one. After all, when you’re crammed into that metal bird, your proximity to the other passengers, as well as the recirculation of air, leaves you at serious risk of inhaling someone else’s germy output.
While potentially the most germ ridden, airplanes don’t have the corner on the
getting-you-sick-while-you-travel market. Any form of mass transit leaves you sharing air with a whole group of people who you wouldn’t normally come into contact with.
Driving yourself? You’re still not entirely safe. You’ll presumably stop at rest areas, restaurants and gas stations along the way. All of these public places could be housing illness-causing invaders that will leave you too sick to enjoy, or even participate in, your next meeting. Worse yet, if you’re the event or meeting organizer, you’ll suffer most acutely from being under the weather on the big day.
Thankfully, there are simple solutions you can implement to reap the benefits of in-
person meetings while avoiding the delay and discomfort associated with falling ill while on the road. If you’re a smart road warrior with your sights set on an
illness-free year of travel, implement these preventative measures.
Clean Your Hands Regularly
Everyone knows that it’s important to wash your hands, but this is even more true when traveling. The surfaces you come in contact with have been touched by lots of people, and some of them were probably sick.
A 2015 Travelmath.com study confirmed this notion, finding that tray tables, overhead air vents, lavatory flush buttons and seat belt buckles are among the germiest parts of an airplane.
When you aren’t able to wash your hands after touching any of these items, then stick a hand sanitizer with at least 50 percent alcohol content in your carry-on. Periodically, apply this sanitizer—especially before you eat or touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Get a Flu Shot
If you’re not getting a flu shot annually, you’re substantially increasing your risk of coming down with a meeting-sabotaging bout of sickness. For optimal effectiveness, get your shot before flu season arrives. If you wait until your colleagues and fellow travelers are already getting knocked out by this year’s strain, it’s not going to be as effective a preventative measure. Your body doesn’t start to develop flu antibodies until two weeks after you receive your shot, so you need to be sure to be proactive and get ahead of the game.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Lots of business travelers find that time on the road results in an expanded waistline. Along with ensuring your suit jacket continues to button without straining, there’s another reason to eat healthy—it could help you stay well.
Your body needs a balanced diet to function at its fullest. Eating fried food at the airport could leave your body less able to fight off illness. Conversely, skipping meals can have the same impact. Plan meals, packing healthy options in your carry-on if you find them hard to acquire while in transit.
Vitamin C, in particular, can be a valuable partner in preventing illness—and hastening recovery if you do fall ill. Instead of chips, candy bars or calorie-heavy trail mix, select fresh oranges or even orange juice, along with an assortment of other fruits and veggies, when it’s time for an energy-boosting snack.
Wear Your Glasses
If you generally wear contacts for vision correction, consider wearing glasses to stay healthier while traveling. With contacts, your eyes are naturally more prone to drying out. When that happens, it becomes easier for germs to make their way into your system. Additionally advantageous, when you’re wearing glasses, you’re naturally less likely to touch your eyes. This means you won’t transfer germs from your hands into your eyes.
If you hate your glasses, don’t despair. You don’t have to wear them during your entire trip—just the travel portion. When you arrive unscathed and (hopefully) uninfected at your intended destination, slip them right back in after, of course, washing your germy hands.
Sanitize Your Seat
If you’re particularly prone to illness or it’s peak cold and flu season, go the extra mile. Turnaround time in commuter planes, trains and buses is fast, leaving the crew with barely enough time to clean, let alone sanitize.
Pack some sanitizing wipes or mist spray and before you sit, wipe down the seat back, tray
table, arm rests, buckle and anything else that seems like it would be commonly touched. You might get a few odd looks as you do this, but if it prevents you from coming down with this season’s dreaded ailment, it will prove worth it.
A native Washingtonian, Dr. Ernest Brown, believes medicine should be patient-focused. He founded Doctors to You, an on-demand medical service offering traditional, house-call-style care for patients in Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia. Visit doctorstoyou.com or follow the doctors at facebook.com/doctorstoyou