Medical Tips to Help you Avoid Illness While Flying

With President’s Day this week, many families are taking off since schools are closed. I won’t be enjoying a holiday this week, but I will give you some medical advice to help you get through the flight and off to a great vacation. Flying can be hazardous to your health in many ways. Let’s break it down to the key points:

Infection

I’ve developed severe viral infections after flying on long flights. Four days into my trip to Europe last year I came down with the worst sinus infection I ever had and I know I got it from the plane ride. My tips to protect yourself in the air:

  • W ear gloves when you go to the bathroom. Bathrooms, and bathroom doorknobs, are prime areas for germs to spread.
  • Bring hand-sanitizer and use it generously.
  • Purchase First Defense nasal strips. They look a little like Band-Aids for the nose and they work to prevent bacteria and viruses from entering the nostrils. They look a little funny, but who cares if they allow you to have a wonderful, relaxing, and disease-free vacation.

Allergies

The upholstery, seats, and carpeting on planes are full of dust mites. Dust mites are powerful airborne allergens that can trigger the nasal congestion and mucus that can lead to a sinus infection. Dust mites can also trigger allergic asthma which may require use of an asthma inhaler. What’s the antidote?

  • Use Nasalcrom spray a few days before the flight – usually twice a day. It is extremely safe and now available over-the-counter, without a prescription.
  • First Defense nasal strips may also be a good addition to prevent inhalation of these dust mites while in the cabin.

Swelling and Clots

The reduced cabin pressure and oxygen content on flights can make you more susceptible to joint swelling and clot formation. NBA player Amourie Stoudemire recently had his ankle swell up on the flight back from a game due to an injury. If you remained seated for several hours during a long flight you can also be more prone to clot formation in the legs, which can travel to the lungs.

  • Take an aspirin the morning of the flight. The aspirin prevents platelets from aggregating and can lessen the risk of a clot.
  • Get up from your seat every hour on the plane and take a walk.
  • Massage your calves. A good solution for those of us stuck in the middle seat!

Finally, once you arrive at your destiny take a nice shower or, even better, a bath. This will reduce your stress level and get your vacation off to a great start.

Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island

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