We in the Pacific Northwest don’t travel during the summer when the cloudless sky is a warm and dreamy blue. We fly away during flu season when the charcoal clouds burst with rain and the airline passengers burst with germs.

At the Women’s March on Saturday, one of my friends complained of a cough lingering six weeks after she contracted the nasty Australian flu on a trip to Puerta Vallarta. So, at lunch, my traveler friends shared techniques on how to stay healthy when flying during flu season.

If you, too, will be up in the air soon, check out their tips. I’m not guaranteeing anything. If you ask a doctor, she’ll say get the flu shot and fly healthy. But it seems like a little extra effort may go a long way.

1. Sanitizer wipes

My friend, Laura, carries a pack of sanitizer wipes and sanitizes her whole seating area. This includes the armrests, seatbelt, touch screen, and tray table. Don’t forget the remote, if you have one. And while you’re at it, wipe your hands, especially before eating.

2. Mask

If you can prioritize health over fashion, cover your nose and mouth with a gauze mask throughout the flight. If you have ever flown in Asia during an epidemic of the flu or SARS, you’ll notice only the handful of foreign passengers are not masked.

Some people prefer coating the inside of their noses with Vaseline or an antibiotic or anti-sporin ointment, thinking the thick goop will block or catch germs. I Googled this technique and online medical people don’t recommend it. They say, you still have to breathe, so germs will get in. Plus, the flu is a virus and is not bacterial, so the ointment won’t kill anything.

3. Nasal Spray

Here’s a new idea I might try. The dry in-flight air prevents your nose from functioning as a germ catcher. Use a saline nasal spray to make sure the inside of your nose is hydrated and working for you.

I do travel with a netty pot and always start a saline nasal rinse at the first sign of congestion.

4. Overhead Air Blower

Because of my dry eye syndrome, I avoid fans. However, my friend, Jes, just flew to Bangkok, and her doctor recommended using the overhead fan to create a protective cone around her body, to blow the germs to the side and down. She returned healthy and remains so.

5. Lavatory

My friend, Bill, never books a seat by the restrooms. Who knows what floor germs people track into the aisle when they leave. He also doesn’t like people coughing on him while they wait in line.

I hope you wear shoes in the lavatory. So many people go in socks. When you enter or leave, make sure to touch the door handle with a tissue or your elbow, not bare skin.

6. Vitamin C

Vitamin C, in the form of Emergen-C or Airborne, works for me at this time of year. When flying, I take it before, during, and after.

Other Problems

Just a reminder from my friend, Janet. Whenever you fly, consider using compression socks and doing the calf exercises the airlines show on the screen. The one time Janet didn’t, her flight was grounded during a storm, and hours of immobility turned into months of prescription drugs.

Compression socks

Janet shops at AAA and has certainly found a more attractive pair of socks than what I found at my local pharmacy.

Happy Travels. See you in the sky.


The feature image is by Mike Kanert and can be found on Creative Commons.