How to Keep Your Kids Healthy While Flying
You head to the airport for a family holiday trip. Everyone is healthy. The next thing you know, you and the kids are sick: fevers, coughing, runny noses and lots of crankiness! Does the plane make you sick? Before heading out for the holidays, let’s try to answer this question.
Why travelers are prone to getting sick on a plane
It turns out this whole “getting sick on a plane” thing isn’t just my imagination…The environment on a plane can be much different than on the ground. A study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found humidity is much lower than average at an altitude of 30,000 feet, which is the range in which most commercial airplanes fly. Low humidity interferes with our natural defense system: the mucus in our noses and throats. When our mucus membranes dry out in the low humidity environment of a plane, it is much easier for cold and flu germs to invade our cells which can lead to infection. In fact, the low humidity environment may make you 113 times more likely to get an infection after flying!
How to avoid getting sick after flying
Stay Hydrated! Pediatrician Dr. Suzanne Molock says travel can dehydrate you, which can lead to headaches, stomach problems, cramps and fatigue plus dryness in your nose and throat—less mucus. Sipping water throughout the flight is more effective at keeping us hydrated than gulping it before and after your flight. Hot drinks are also a good way to keep your protective mucus membranes working. A cup of herbal tea provides moisture in the form of steam to keep the mucus flowing and keep your defenses strong. Misting your face or even breathing through a damp washcloth as well as saline nasal sprays can all help keep you hydrated and healthy this travel season.
Keep your hands clean! Your hands are the first point of contact other than people and objects and therefore, first point of contact with bacteria and viruses. Cold and flu viruses can survive on your skin or on objects, like airplane seats and trays, or on your skin for hours. The dirtiest surfaces on planes include tray tables, overhead air vents, lavatory flush buttons, seatbelt buckles and the seat pocket in front of you. Avoiding all those germy surfaces is nearly impossible, so wash your hands often with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. (Remember to bring a travel size that holds three ounces or less.) You can also carry disinfecting wipes with you on your trip to wipe down these surfaces.
Contrary to what many people think, the air from the air vent is not what makes you sick. In fact, you should have the air vent above your seat pointed toward your lap to blow germs away from your mouth and nose.
You can also ensure that your body is pre-adjusted to the time zone at your destination as disruption of your “body clock,” or circadian system can weaken your immune system. You should slowly adjust to the new time zone over several days leading up to your flight by eating and sleeping at times closer to when you will be doing so at your destination.
Here’s to happy, safe and HEALTHY travels!