Airports — just hearing the word can make you feel anxious. Long lines, security, layovers, and travel delays are all reasons for that stressful environment. While seasoned travelers have learned to streamline the process (TSA PreCheck anyone?), there is one aspect of travel that is particularly intimidating: the seemingly inevitable airplane cold! All of us want to try staying healthy while flying, but is it possible?!
Our family has spent more than one vacation dealing with the airplane flu. It seems like the odds are stacked against us, especially when a nearby passenger isn’t feeling well (you know what I mean — streams of coughs and sneezes echoing from the seat behind you…). In fact, a recent study shows that you are more likely to get sick if you’re seated close to someone with a respiratory illness or if you contact other passengers when moving around in the cabin (such as going to the bathroom or stretching your legs). That can mean lots of spoiled vacations.
After years of experimenting with different methods to avoid airplane germs, we have discovered three simple secrets to staying healthy while flying. In fact, our family has successfully warded off illness for the last three years in a row! That’s why we feel that our “Air Travel Wellness Plan” is the key to our success. (Oh, and holding our breaths when the person behind us sneezes helps too)!
Air Travel And Your Health
Some of the reasons air travel can be challenging to our health are pretty obvious: we spend hours in a confined space with hundreds of people, recirculated air, and low humidity.
Another stressor in air travel that you might not be aware of are the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on the body. Before you even board your flight, you are exposed to a wide array of EMR generated from radar equipment, security scanners, and communication devices. Once the airplane wheels leave the ground, you are bombarded with high levels of EMR from the airplane, combined with all the smart technology that passengers bring on board. Research has shown that even low levels of EMF and EMR can negatively impact the immune system.
While travel planning, packing, arranging pet care, getting ahead with work projects — you name it! — are all done in preparation for a big trip, these activities can affect our rest and dietary choices, reducing immune health before your suitcase is even zipped up. Support your pre-travel health with foundational supplements like multivitamins, probiotics, and omega-3s. It’s also helpful to focus on eating healthy meals and getting adequate sleep. Making good choices ahead of your trip is the best preparation for staying healthy while flying!
As with many aspects of life, we have to take the good with the bad. Air travel is an amazing convenience that enables us to visit parts of the world that we wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise. Although it’s easy to catch an airplane cold, it’s still possible to avoid that after flight sickness by implementing some simple measures to protect your health and boost your immune system!
Our Air Travel Wellness Plan
Getting the most out of your vacation starts with staying healthy while flying. If you’ve ever spent a vacation inside and on the couch with a cold, you know how miserable it can be — because you’re sick and you’ve been looking forward to this time off! Fortunately, our family is past our stomach flus and long-lasting colds we developed from air travel, all thanks to our Air Travel Wellness Plan!
This plan took years to refine, but we think we’ve got a winner. More than a dozen illness-free vacations and counting…
If you follow us or subscribe to our email newsletter, you already know that our whole team at The Healthy Place are huge fans of elderberry! That’s because we love its amazing immune-boosting abilities! Check out this “Terry Talks Nutrition” article that details a clinical trial in Australia exploring the use of elderberry while traveling. This research found that elderberry reduced the incidence of colds and flu contracted during air travel as well as the duration and severity of illness. Although we haven’t conducted a formal study, our family knows that elderberry is one of the reasons we’re staying healthy while flying too!
- Elderberry reduced the incidence of colds and flu contracted during air travel.
- Elderberry reduced duration and severity of illness.
What to do
- One week before traveling, start taking an elderberry product daily.
- IMPORTANT! Take the maximum dose during the flight.
- Continue use during your vacation, on the trip home, and for a few days to one week after you return.
- Recommended Products: Our kids take Elderberry Burst while us adults take Virapro. During the flight, we all used Sambucus lozenges.
2. Essential Oils
Essential oils are just what you and your family need for staying healthy while flying! We chose several essential oils with antiviral and antibacterial properties and used the direct inhalation method to shield our bodies from airborne contaminants. This is a simple method to gear up your immune system and coat your sinuses with the protective properties essential oils offer. We also discovered an added benefit during some heavy turbulence — lavender helps to relieve nausea and anxiety brought on by the bumpy ride!
What to do
- Choose several age-appropriate essential oils with antiviral and antibacterial properties. Make sure to include them in your quart-sized bag of liquids when going through security. Our favorite essential oils to bring on flights are lavender and frankincense.
- Open the bottle, cup your hands around it, bring it to your nose, and then take several deep, slow breaths. Super easy for adults and children!
- You can do this when you enter the airport and as many times as you would like throughout the flight. If someone is coughing or sneezing near you, pull out your oils and take a whiff! As an added bonus, you can take a few deep breaths of your essential oil without the aroma pervading the airplane cabin, which is considerate of other passengers.
- Our entire team is excited about the newest addition to our essential oil lineup: Plant Therapy Kid Safe essential oils and roll-ons! These oil blends were created by Robert Tisserand in partnership with Plant Therapy. He is one of the world’s leading aromatherapy experts and is particularly passionate regarding essential oil safety, especially with children. Be sure to check them out before your next family vacation!
We love using essential oils to protect our immune system during air travel. It is an added bonus that you can take a few whiffs without the aroma pervading the airplane cabin – considerate of other passengers who may be sensitive to scents.
Staying healthy while flying requires plenty of water. You’ve definitely heard this before, and for good reason! Staying hydrated on a plane is essential as airplane environments are dry, dry, dry. The cabin humidity level is only between 5 and 10%. When our mucus membranes are dehydrated, our vulnerability to infection increases. I know, I know — if you are drinking a lot, you’ll need to use those icky airplane bathrooms. Unfortunately, that just can’t be avoided! (Just make sure you wash or sanitize your hands afterward!)
What to do
- Adults, drink the recommended eight ounces per hour during the flight. Children should drink two to four ounces per hour, depending on their age and weight.
- Avoid alcohol and coffee before and during the flight.
- Make sure that you are well hydrated before traveling.
- Avoid salty foods and snacks while in flight.
But Does This Really Work?
This plan has worked for our family for six years. Coincidence? Maybe, but traveling with three young children certainly increased our chances of illness. I can’t guarantee anything but here is a little story for you. (I can’t label this a clinical trial or research, just personal experience. We think the results are pretty obvious 😉)
After a few trips that were spoiled by illness, our plan was unveiled as a “you have no choice” sort of thing (moms can get away with that). Everyone happily cooperated on the flight and during the trip. We had a healthy and amazing vacation! On the return flight, however, some members of our party weren’t as diligent with their sickness-fighting routine.
This is how the week after looked for those who did, and didn’t, apply our Air Travel Wellness Plan:
- Complete Application: No illness
- Moderate Application: Very mild illness (sore throat after flying)
- No Application: Severe illness (sick after flying)
The Healthy Place team believes that vacations are an amazing opportunity to de-stress, regroup, and connect with family and friends. These tips kept us staying healthy while flying — and we know they can for your family too!We love answering your questions and would be happy to give you specific recommendations for your health needs. Call or stop in at any of our four nutrition stores located in Madison, Sun Prairie, West Madison, and Middleton, Wisconsin and talk to a certified Wellness Consultant. Let us help you “Find Your Healthy Place!”