Healthy on the Fly
Photography by: Christian Northeast
3. Declare germ warfare Now that you know about the microbe convention being held in the cabin, wipe down your seat-back tray, armrests and the air and light buttons with an antibacterial wipe. Or squirt a few drops of hand sanitizer on a napkin and then wipe. Use hand sanitizer before you eat and after you return from the bathroom, Gendreau says. “While washing with soap and water is effective, you can pick up more germs at the sink,” he says. And don’t forget to turn on your overhead air vent and position it to hit in front of your face. “If someone coughs or sneezes, the air current will literally push the germs away,” Gendreau says. Haddon also carries a bottle of Xlear Nasal Spray on board, as xylitol prevents bacteria from adhering to the walls of your nose. In numerous studies, xylitol prevented microbes from attaching to the nose in adults and curbed ear infections in children. Haddon suggests using Xlear at least five times on a flight.
4. Pass on the peanuts and tiny bottles of booze It seems like airline attendants only offer foods that you should avoid. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages dehydrate you, as does sodium, which also causes bloating. “And sugar suppresses the immune system by feeding bad bacteria and making the lower digestive tract more acidic and hospitable to bad bugs,” Koff says. Instead, eat alkalizing veggies, lentils and almonds, says Saunders, who also advises stirring in a half teaspoon of baking soda in water two days before and one to two days after travel to further alkalize your body. It’s also smart to eat lightly on the day you fly. “Overeating overwhelms your digestive system, causing bloating and discomfort,” says Koff, who suggests packing a salad and adding hemp seeds, a good fat-filled protein that won’t spoil like meat. “Bring food you’ll enjoy so the not-so-healthy options at the airport don’t call to you,” she adds.
5. Handle the pressure Cabins are pressurized to feel like you’re at 5,000 feet, so if you’re used to living at sea level you might experience symptoms of mild altitude sickness, such as nausea, headache and blocked ears. To ease cabin pressure, stay awake during takeoff and landing, says Andrew Parker, M.D., a holistic ear, nose and throat specialist in Norwalk, Conn. If you’re dozing, you’re not naturally swallowing and won’t be able to pop your ears. Many people down an antihistamine to prevent their ears from being blocked. “This will not reduce the stress on your ear or Eustachian tube, and it can dry out your nose, making it more susceptible to germs,” Haddon says. Instead, she recommends chewing gum to open your Eustachian tubes and ease the pressure during ascent and descent.