By Bill Lockhart
Air travel is an absolute necessity if one wants to explore other continents. Having flown 250,000 miles in the last five years, I have learned to do some things to stay healthy.
What you touch can make you sick.
Viruses and other beasties are present on plastic and cloth surfaces. The first thing I do when I get in my airline seat is pull out a sanitizing cloth and wipe down every surface I might touch, particularly the tray and the seat arms. Such areas are seldom cleaned, especially between flights. You can purchase small sanitizing packets in large quantities at Sam’s Club or many large retail outlets. Trays are harbingers for MRSA, a deadly superbug.
That pocket in the seat in front of you is a great place for bacteria to grow. Stuffed with all kinds of left overs from previous flights, including french fries, used tissues, and gosh knows what else that passengers poke into them. Avoid using that pocket, keep your stuff in a small personal bag that you own. These surfaces harbinger cold and influenza A, B, and C viruses.
Use a hand sanitizer frequently.
What you drink can make you sick.
Avoid ice. Ice is notorious for having contaminants. Order can drinks or bottled water, never accept water poured from a pitcher — you have no idea where that water came from. Have a glass of wine or two. It helps you relax and it is safer than most other liquids including coffee. Even coffee is sometimes prepared without bringing the water temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria. Biggest danger is E. coli, a common culprit.
What you eat can make you sick.
Food is prepared by vendors under contract with airlines. Frankly, you don’t know and I don’t know where it was prepared and under what conditions. Best to pack your own food or carry food that is in sealed containers. Improperly prepared food can contain Listeria, a microbe known to cause gastrointestinal illness and meningitis.
What you put near your body can make you sick.
Airline pillows and blankets should never be used. Bring your own pillow and learn to layer your clothing to stay warm. Remember, you don’t know and I don’t know when that blanket was last cleaned or what lies within the pillow. Such are harbingers for germs like Aspergillus niger that cause pneumonia and infections.
What you wash your hands with can make you sick.
Never wash your hands in an airline lavatory. Water storage in aircraft are notorious for containing all kinds of bacteria. Use hand sanitizer instead. And remember that everything you have touched in the lavatory is likely to be a harbinger for viruses and bacteria. Use hand sanitizer after touching any surface.
The guy next to you can make you sick.
Avoid sick passengers. Ask a flight attendant to move you to another seat. Insist on it.
Use Listerine Spray.
I spray Listerine in my mouth often. Now, mind you, there is no evidence that doing so will kill a cold virus, but I do it anyway. And, since I started doing it, I have not gotten a cold while traveling. Listerine makes a small unit that can fit in your pocket. I carry one all the time.
Upgrade to Business Class.
As airlines cram more and more people into tighter spaces, the only recourse for comfort and a small measure of personal room is to upgrade to business class. I always do that when it is available. The cost is worth it knowing that I might find time to sleep, or be more comfortable during an overseas flight. And, the wine is free!
In sum, when you fly consider the environment in which you will live for many hours. It is not a good environment, it is filled with dangers to your health.