By Kacey Bradley:
Flying can be stressful, even when you’re heading to a paradise vacation. Besides the crowded seating and noisy passengers, planes are a hotbed for germs, withmore than one in five peoplesuffering from a cold or flu after flying.
Cold and flu aren’t the only types of health issues you can face when flying. Many people also suffer from jet lag, which can occur when flying across time zones and the body’s circadian rhythm is out of sync with the new destination. This phenomenon can make it hard to properly enjoy your trip, as you might be tired or groggy during the daytime when you should be out and about.
Avoiding illness and fighting off jet lag is all about proper planning. To stay healthy and happy on your next flight, follow these five tips.
1. Bring Sanitizing Wipes
Cold viruses can live on the indoor surfaces of an airplane for up to seven days. When you sit in your assigned seat, there’s a high likelihood of infectious germs all around you, especially on the armrest, tray table and seat pockets. To avoid cold and flu germs, bring along sanitizing wipes.
You can find a package of these wipes at any pharmacy or grocery store, and you can easily slip them into your carry-on bag or purse. Try to wipe down all the solid surfaces you might touch, including the entertainment screen, which many passengers touch but rarely clean. And anytime you go to the restroom, be sure to wipe down the seat and flusher.
2. Choose the Right Seat
When it comes to staying healthy on your next flight, not all seats are equal. If you have the option to choose your seat, stay as far away from the bathrooms as possible. People who are already sick when flying spend a lot of time there, making you more likely to encounter their germs.
The ideal seat is near the window. If you can stick by the window for the entire flight, you’ll encounter fewer germsthan if you sit in an aisle seat. Snagging a window seat also will allow you to avoid jet lag, as seatmates wanting to use the restroom won’t wake you up when you’re trying to rest.
3. Adjust Your Schedule
Avoid jet lag before you take off by adjusting your sleep scheduleto the time zone of your destination. Take it slowly, altering your sleep by one hour each day. If you find you’re not tired at your new bedtime, try adding exercise to your daily routine or take a melatonin supplement at night to help you fall asleep.
Once you’re on the plane, try to adhere strictly to your new sleep schedule. If you’re lucky enough to get a window seat, you can open the window shade to let in natural light, which will help you feel more awake and alert. If it’s dark outside, turn on the overhead light or take a walk to the bathroom. When you need to sleep, close the window shade and break out your trusted sleep mask.
4. Watch What You Drink
When it comes to staying hydrated and healthy on a flight, there’s a fine line between just enough and too much. To stay healthy and keep your immune system’s natural fighting mechanisms strong, remaining hydrated is essential. Try to drink eight ounces of water each hour, especially on flights longer than three hours.
But if you drink too much, you can throw off your hard-earned sleep schedule, increasing the likelihood of jet lag once you arrive. Overdoing your water intake can mean waking for frequent bathroom breaks. You also should try to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, which can inhibit sleep and make your body more dehydrated.
5. Bring Your Entertainment
The touchscreens embedded in the seats of planes can be a source of entertainment to pass the time, especially for young kids. Unfortunately, these screens hardly ever get cleaned, meaning they’re teeming with germs. Skip the chance of infection by bringing your entertainment with you instead. From e-readers to DVD players, there are plenty of ways to pass the time.
The best thing about bringing your entertainment is that you also have better control over your sleep schedule. By sticking to movies on the in-flight screens, you’re subjecting yourself to blue light, which can disrupt your sleepand lead to more illnesses. Most personal electronics will allow you to enable “night mode,” which filters out blue light to prevent health issues.
Stay Healthy on Your Next Flight
Whether you’re flying for work or pleasure, no one wants to be sick in an unfamiliar destination. From germ-infested passengers to sleep disrupters and jet lag, plenty can go wrong if you don’t prepare. Fortunately, to ensure you stay healthy on your next flight, there are several smart steps you can take before you fly. Follow the five tips above to plan for your safe trip.