Official flu season: How not to get sick on a plane

It’s officially this time of year. The temperature dropped drastically, tea was flowing and flu season was approaching. Unlike the common cold season, passengers must now grapple with the real and ongoing threat of the new coronavirus.

You’re probably doing your best to avoid germs lately, especially when you’re traveling. In addition to meeting mask requirements, you can clean your seat, wear goggles or face shield, and refuse to be served food or drink.

Fortunately, according to Healthline (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures), taking lots of precautions to contain the spread of COVID-19 will also help you stay safe from seasonal flu.

And staying healthy during flu season may be more important than ever. Of course, nobody wants to get sick, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say it is important “to reduce the burden on the health system from influenza, hospitalizations and deaths, and to safeguard scarce medical resources.” for the treatment of people with COVID-19 ”.

In addition, influenza and COVID-19 can occur at the same time. Epidemiologist Dr. Siema Yasmin, director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative, told CNN Health, “If you get infected with one, you can be more susceptible to falling ill with the other.”

With so many symptoms like these, it’s hard to tell if you have the flu or the coronavirus, which is why prevention is so important this season.

How can you protect yourself and your family from the flu while traveling? Here are our top tips.

Put on a mask

If you plan on flying in the near future, you need to wear a mask. Although these regulations were created to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, wearing a mask can also help keep you safe from the flu.

“The respiratory virus is the number one cause of illness while traveling and spreads through the air,” said Dr. Nathan Favini, chief medical officer at Forward, a new technology startup.

According to the CDC, face masks are most effectively used by patients. This helps prevent viral particles from spreading to other people. It’s not reliable, but it helps. And although healthy people wearing masks will not be as effective, they can safely prevent some of the particles from getting easily into your mouth or nose.

Keep your hands clean

We all know that hand washing is key to preventing disease, but this is especially true when traveling.

“Keep your hands clean,” said Dr. Nicholas Testa, Chief Medical Officer at Dignity Health in Southern California. “This means a combination of good hand hygiene with water or soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.” The CDC recommends alcohol-based hand sanitizers with an alcohol content of 60% to 95%, such as: B. Covex.

Skip the bathroom

If it’s a short flight, go to the bathroom before take off, says New York-based general practitioner Dr. Marina Gafanovic to TPG. Why?

“You have to understand that a lot of people share this bathroom,” he said. “And research shows that sinks, water handles, and toilet seats in airplane showers have significant germs. So it’s best to use paper towels if you touch the toilet seat or faucet, or even the door latch.”

Drink in moderation

The humidity on board is roughly 15%, while we are used to between 30% and 60% humidity on land. The very low humidity inside the cabin can dry out the mucous membranes of the nose and airways. When these tissues dry out, they are much more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. To overcome this, stay hydrated.

“Bring your own water bottle and strive to drink 8 ounces of water every hour while you are in the air to stay hydrated,” says Dr. Favini your goal. “

Avoid certain areas on the plane

Apart from washing your hands, pay attention to areas on the plane that are particularly sensitive to touch. For example, the flu virus can live on any hard surface for up to 24 hours.

“Don’t use the tray table and if you really need it, bring a wet tissue and clean it before use,” said Dr. Gafanovic. “Don’t keep things in your back pocket either. We know lots of people who use them, so they might be full of germs.”

Testa also recommends avoiding or wiping the vents, toilet flush buttons and seat belt locks. So, make sure you have a disinfectant before your next flight. (Many airlines have this already, but don’t let anything be a coincidence).

Don’t touch your face

Even if your hands are clean, it’s best to keep them away from your face.

“Even if your hands have touched the dirtiest and most germ-rich surfaces, if you don’t bring these germs to the point of entry (nose, mouth, eyes), you won’t get sick,” said Dr. Frank Contactza, New York. . “Make it a habit to never rub your eyes, touch your mouth or nose unless you’ve recently washed your hands. This is one of the best ways to avoid disease.”

Put on gloves

Can’t get rid of the habit of touching your face? Try on gloves.

Dr. Julie Fisher, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University, told TPG earlier this year, “Gloves are useful because they remind people not to touch their nose and mouth … while they are wearing gloves. You become too conscious of that. . However, the best protection for humans is to be very careful when washing hands. “

Choose your seat carefully

Studies onboard have shown that there is significantly more traffic on the runway seats and a higher risk of exposure. Why? Well, sick patients tend to get ready in this chair when they go to the bathroom.

“A window seat is a better choice if you want to minimize the risk of airway transmission,” says Dr. Testa. These seats usually don’t come into much contact with the passenger.

Travelers may also want to be very active in booking flights with airlines that want to limit passenger-flight attendant interactions and commit to reducing capacity. Delta Air Lines, for example, will block medium seats and holding capacity in the main cabin, on Comfort + and Premium Select, until at least January 6, 2021.

Allow ventilation

While you may think that sitting in recycled air for hours on end can make you sick, maintaining ventilation can actually help.

“There are several studies showing that using air vents that point straight downward can create a protective cone,” said Dr. Contassa. “This can actually prevent germs in the air from getting to you. The airflow from the vents can help prevent other passengers from sneezing.”

In fact, the highly efficient particle filter (HEPA) on airplanes removes at least 99.97% of all viruses and bacteria in the air. This air is also refreshed about 20 times an hour. The office has only been updated about 10 times.

Before you even get on the plane, you can take precautions to avoid getting sick.

“Start a probiotic regimen to prevent the gut from blocking bad bacteria and encourage the body to fight infection by increasing the good bacteria in the gut,” says Dr. Testa. “Take zinc supplements and get the flu vaccine two to three weeks before you travel.”

And if there’s one thing you need to provide before traveling while on a plane, it’s vitamin C. “Research shows that people under stress who consume 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day are more likely to experience stress. Are less likely to catch a viral infection,” says Dr. Favini. “And traveling is often stressful.

Bottom row

Taking care of your health while traveling has never been more important. And while many of the current coronavirus control measures can help prevent the flu or other common ailments, travelers need to be more careful about their health. This means remembering the most basic steps to stop the spread of germs. Following the other tips above, throw away the tissue immediately after use and wash your hands. Avoid contact with sick people; and most importantly, stay at home and away from other people when you feel like you are running out of time.

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