Long hours on a plane can mean increased susceptibility to disease and illness. HEALTH looks at the top ways to keep yourself healthy while travelling on a plane.
Spread of Infection
According to Family Medicine Specialist Dr. Shagufta Zia, it is easy to acquire an infection in the form of cough, cold, or flu whilst on-board a flight due to close proximity for long durations, body-to-body contact infection or from large droplets that are sprayed several feet when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. “It is easy to acquire an infection– the virus or bacteria sprayed at you can enter your body and infect you through your eyes, nose, or mouth,” she says, while airborne infection can occur when larger infected droplets partially evaporate and droplets
become widely dispersed in the air and remain there until the air is exchanged or appropriately filtered. Infection can also occur on a plane as the microorganism can spread through infected food and water.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or a clot in the legs can occur due to prolonged immobilization in individuals who are obese and/or have diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, hypothyroidism, and who have a hypercoagulable status. It starts as a mild swelling of the legs and feet followed by shortness of breath in the case of pulmonary embolism (clot in the lung). Such individuals are advised to actively flex their legs and feet and also to walk in the flight intermittently. In case of high risk individuals travelling for more than six hours, it is worth taking an injection of low molecular weight heparin before the journey. Some are advised to break their journey. Other preventative measures, adds Dr. Zia, include remaining adequately hydrated. “Also avoid tight-fitting socks or stockings and use graduated compression stockings,” she urges.
To Be Safe
Dr. Zia advises to drink plenty of water; “Ask for bottled water and make sure your children do this as they are especially susceptible to dehydration and drink tea and coffee only if the water used to make it is boiled or is bottled,” she says. “Limit caffeine as this adds to dehydration and jet lag. And prevent dryness of your skin, eyes, and airways by using a moisturizer, saline eye drops for
contact lenses and saline nasal sprays.” Also, basic common sense is to continue to practice good hand hygiene and wash your hands before you eat. “Also be sure to request a seat change if someone nearby appears to be sick,” she says.
Tips for Individuals with Pre-Existing Conditions
For individuals who are already susceptible to infection, the risk of infection is dependent on how infectious the “sick” person is, the proximity of his/her seat, and duration of the exposure as flights over eight hours appear to be of greatest risk. For individuals who are already suffering a cold or the start of a cold, drink plenty of hot fluids and carry Paracetamol with honey and lemon sachets on-board. Also stay in your seat to avoid droplet infection spreading to others. Carry any usual medications and doctor’s prescription with you.