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Keep Yourself in Tip Top Health When Flying

Keep the germs away at 36,000 feet

Healthy Flying

Air travel has opened up whole new horizons for travelers across the world. It’s also opened new and interesting places to visit for some slightly smaller travelers – and we’re not talking about those obnoxious twins in isle 23 – we’re talking about microbes, bacteria, germs, mold and bacteria.

As much as you might not like the idea – they’re there, enjoying your complementary peanuts and second guessing you about the choice between the chicken and the beef.

They’re on the floor and they’re on the seat. And they’re on you. Welcome to the wonderful world of air travel.

So what can you do to keep yourself healthy 36,000 feet?
Use these 10 ways to keep yourself healthy when flying.

1. Wipe down your seat

Everything from faecal matter to Methicillan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria has been found lurking in the passenger cabins of planes. And short haul / budget airlines are the worse. If there was a quick turnover from the last trip, it’s likely all the cleaning crew did was pick up the easily accessible rubbish, says Katherine Harmon, the Director of Health Intelligence at iJet, an international risk management company.
Antibacterial wipes are TSA friendly since they’re not a liquid, and you can use them to clean your hands and face, as well as wipe down your seat, arm rests, tray table, and especially your seat belt before you sit. OCD be damned – it’s worth a couple of strange looks to stay healthy.

2. If you have to sneeze on board, do it discretely

The crook of your arm is a great place to deposit your sneeze. Here’s the awful truth: An un-sheltered sneeze can spew droplets from 6 to 30 feet away, according to Harmon. So sneezing into the bend of your arm may sound pretty disgusting, but it works. Just don’t sneeze into your hands: “You’re going to touch other things and potentially spread viruses or bacteria,” explains Harmon.  Be considerate – even if that bacteria filled bad in seat 32B isn’t.

3. Blow your nose, don’t sniff

It’s annoying as all hell and whereas we may hate snot, but bacteria and viruses love it, according to Harmon. So rather than sniffling the microbe-filled mucus from your runny nose back up into your nostrils (where the germs love to party), blow it into a tissue and throw it away. Properly – don’t tuck it into the seat holder in front of you. Rather stick it to the steward as he or she comes past. We’re joking – never do that.

4. Stay water wise

Drinking sufficient fluid (not a gin and tonic – that’s a bad idea, it dehydrates you) in-flight actually helps prevent a chain reaction that leaves you prone to catching something horrible. Here’s how it works: Plane air is dry like the Sahara, which parches your nose, throat and lungs and when that happens your body tries to remedy the situation with a runny nose. As we’ve just learned, that runny nose is a haven for bacteria – and gain they’re going to party in your sinuses.

5. Watch out for spices on the airline food

Most plane food has gotten better, especially on long haul flights and it’s pretty safe since it’s microwaved. The exception may be spices or add-ons like sesame seeds, which can carry bacteria.

We’ve been finding that spices imported from other areas are what harbour bacteria like salmonella… Often it’s not actually the meat.

says Harmon. So be especially careful if you’re traveling around developing countries on local airlines.

6. Don’t drink the water – and don’t even wash your hands

Planes fill up their tanks wherever they’re being serviced

says Harmon. That means if you’re flying somewhere you shouldn’t drink the water (or if the plane may have just come from a place like that), you should stick to bottled H2O. In fact, you should drink bottled water, regardless – the Environmental Protection Agency found that 15% of the water on planes contained faecal matter. Stick to those antibacterial wipes.

7. Never use the airplane blankets or pillows unless they come pre-packaged.

If the pillow or blanket shows up in sealed plastic that means it has been laundered. If not, use your jacket to keep warm. You have no idea where they’ve been or what germs are making a home on them. Maybe you should bring your own blankie.

8. Get your shots well in advance of traveling

You need time to build immunity after they’re administered

explains Harmon. And we’re not just talking about getting the hepatitis A vaccine for third-world travel. A simple flu shot takes seven to 10 days to offer full protection, she says.

9. Stop touching!

Hands to the sides. You touch stuff all the time and then you touch your face. Remember that faecal matter we discussed earlier? The less shit you touch (we’re not scared to call a spade a spade), the less chance you have of coming in contact with hideous colonies of germs. It’s as simple as that.

10. Wear a surgical masks when traveling

You think Asians look funny with their surgical masks – think again. If you’re not in Asia, this could label you as a looney – ignore those people who give you strange looks. The catch is, studies show it’s the sick person who needs to wear the mask, according to research. If anyone two to four rows in front, behind or to the sides of you is sick, a mask on his or face could help keep you healthy.

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