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Ten Tips for Staying Healthy on Your Hawai‘i Flight

November 13, 2017, 10:17 AM HST (Updated November 13, 2017, 10:17 AM) · 0 Comments
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(L–R) Airport Bathrooms, 265 CFU; Airport Water Fountains, 1,240 CFU; Airplane Travel Trays, 2,106 CFU

Odds are the flu is on your next flight, according to a recent survey by Mattress Firm.

Common sense may dictate that sick persons should avoid public contact, but a proprietary survey discovered that this doesn’t necessarily hold true for airline travel.

In fact, more than 75% of over 2,500 travelers surveyed, when asked if they would cancel a nonrefundable flight if they had a flu or cold, admitted they wouldn’t cancel their flight. In the choice between being courteous to other fliers and incurring a loss, or flying sick—the vast majority choose to fly sick.

While you can’t know how many sick people will be on any given flight, the odds are good that they did not stay home—and they could be sitting right next to you.

Not only could you be sitting next to someone who is sick, but you are also sitting in the wake of germs left behind by previous passengers.

In an experiment conducted by Travelmath, they swabbed the most commonly used areas of an airplane and airports to discover the largest germ strongholds.

According to Travelmath’s data, bathrooms are surprisingly not the highest germ-spreading culprit—they were actually relatively clean, at 265 colony-forming units (CFU) per square inch. It turns out if you want to minimize your risk of getting sick while traveling, avoid the travel tray at all costs. At 2,106 CFU, the travel tray was by far the object with the highest germ count. Water fountain levers came in second at 1,240 CPU.

How to Combat Airplane Germs

Just because you are traveling alongside germ-saturated objects doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your exposure. Here are 10 tips that will help reduce your risk of getting sick while traveling.

#1 Stock Up on Sleep Getting enough sleep before and after a trip is one of the best, easiest, and cheapest ways to boost your immune system to prevent a cold. Sleep deprivation weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting sick, so be sure to take an extra nap or two before your next trip.

#2 Wear a Mask If your immune system is weak or you need to avoid becoming sick at all costs, donning a mask is the way to go. Be sure to get a medical grade N95 mask instead of a disposable paint mask as N95 masks are designed specifically to protect you from germs and other pollutants.

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#3 Sanitize Your Serving Tray On your next flight, come prepared with disinfecting wipes to wipe down your seat’s serving tray before use. Do not use the serving tray if you forget to bring wipes. Your immune system will thank you.

#4 Use Hand Sanitizer Germs easily travel between your hands and mouth—especially when eating. As mentioned in the serving tray tip above, be sure to sanitize your hands before eating.

#5 Gargle Your Cough Away While there is little data to back up the idea that rinsing your mouth with mouthwash will stop a cold in its tracks, gargling with hot water and salt can temporarily relieve a sore throat as well as ease a cough you may have caught on your flight.

#6 Prioritize Zinc over Vitamin C If you do catch a cold, or are one of the 75%who choose to fly when sick, skip taking vitamin C (it doesn’t work, really) and opt for zinc instead, which science suggests helps treat colds more effectively than vitamin C.

#7 Stay Hydrated Drinking plenty of water several hours before and after your flight is another way to help fight off a cold. When you are dehydrated your immune system is more susceptible to germs. Try to drink about three liters of water a day.

#8 Switch Seats If someone audibly and visibly ill sits next to you, and the cabin is not full, politely and quietly ask the flight attendant to switch seats.

#9 Get Your Flu Shot While a flu shot only protects you against a small subset of the flu virus, it is worth the time and investment to shield yourself from the new “big baddies” of the upcoming flu season. If you fly internationally, be sure to also be up to date on the rest of your vaccines.

#10 Sleep on the Plane This is an ideal time to catch up on your sleep—especially if you’ve booked an overnight flight. If you’re a light sleeper, bring a small pillow and blanket with you to help get more comfortable—and don’t forget the earplugs. You’ve got a lot of extra time, and naps are a great way to kill a few hours and recharge—you might as well catch up on your rest.

While being hydrated, getting your flu shots and bringing sanitizer are great tactics to fight off germs, ultimately, at the end of the day, the best way to avoid a Christmas cold or sniffles in Hawai‘i is to get enough sleep before, during and after your trip. Sleep is the secret to stopping germs from ruining your next holiday.

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