There's nothing worse than getting sick over the holidays or while you're on vacation—this is your chance to relax and get outside to have some fun, not sit indoors with a mean head cold while everyone else is frolicking around with mulled wine feeling festive. And yet, it happens infuriatingly often. It's not necessarily that our immune systems are more vulnerable on an airplane—it's the fact that we're in this contained vessel stuffed with coughing passengers (have you never heard of proper vampire sneezing etiquette, people?) for hours on end.
We can feel the bacteria creeping in just thinking about it.
Indeed, getting sick while traveling almost feels inevitable, a pilgrim's right of passage, if you will. But "almost" is the operative word here because you can avoid it if you know how to protect yourself against the cesspool of germs that wreak havoc on travelers. If you want to take preventative measures that will decrease the chances of you picking up something nastier than airport souvenirs, learn how to not get sick while traveling below. These six tips are simple, and your beautifully functioning respiratory system will worship you when you touch down common cold–free.
Time to enjoy that precious, precious time off.
Layer and Stay Warm
One of the biggest no-nos is using those pre-packaged blankets on the flight. They reuse them—ew. The jury is still out on the health of recirculated air, we'd rather just err on the side of paranoia and keep that overhead AC sealed shut. To make things even less pleasant, airplanes tend to be preparing us for subzero temperatures—"you will shiver," the thermostat teases. What's the solution? Pack a puffer! Use it as a blanket, or suffer the pain of an overstuffed carry-on and shove a travel blanket in there.
It's definitely worth it.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself
On a similarly and appropriately paranoid note, don't touch anything. Or at least avoid touching things as much as you can (or wear some gloves à la Theodora Crain in Haunting of Hill House). Those conveniently placed seat back packets, for example, are deceptive. They seduce you with convenience and then give you the flu. Think of how many sickos have stuffed their used tissues in those things. Just pack a very smart, well-organized bag and take that extra step of bending over when you need something.
I, however, am seduced every time, and if you are too, just make sure you wash your hands plenty.
Bring Immune-Boosting Supplements
As someone who used to turn my nose up at all supplements (I still do to some of them), echinacea is no joke. Seriously, this vitamin is not messing around. It's a miracle worker in the form of a capsule. While things like Emergen-C, Airbone, and even just good old fashion orange juice can be helpful, this vitamin has saved me from so many colds I can't even count them.
This one might sound obvious, but it can't be stressed enough. Make sure you're drinking enough water (maybe even more than you usually do) because the air in planes has 20% humidity, while normal air is 30% humidity. Translation: It's freakishly dry up in that cabin. That also means your chances of dehydration just skyrocketed, so sip, sip, guzzle, guzzle.
Pack Healthy Snacks
Switching up your diet too extravagantly or skipping all the essential nutrients all day long can throw off your system, so pack some healthy snacks you can munch on. And do us all a favor and make sure you don't pack anything stinky. You'll thank yourself when you don't like the in-flight dinner selection. On the other hand, if you find yourself shaky and hungry on a flight that only hands out a measly pack of peanuts on a six-hour flight, a pre-packed snack will come in handy.
Get Some Sleep
Definitely try to sleep on the plane. We all know what happens when we don't get enough sleep, and you want to be well rested so you can enjoy your destination upon arrival. It's also well advised to check the time difference so you can prep yourself for jet lag avoidance. If you're someone who can't really sleep on a plane, then close your eyes and listen to a podcast or something so you at least rest.