Monday, November 9, 2009

Flying High

As I type to distract myself on this way too bumpy flight, I thought I’d share some health-related flying tips. With all the emphasis on flu these days, I’d be remiss not to start with the basic advice that you should NOT fly if you have a fever or a productive cough (or other flu symptoms such as headache, sore throat, and body aches.) That being said, there are many times that you may need to fly when you have mild cold or allergy symptoms, and there are a few tricks that may be helpful.
The one time that I actually recommend OTC products such as nose sprays like Afrin is if you have a stuffy head/nose/ears and need to fly. Make sure to put it in ziplock bag for security, but then use it when you are seated on the plane to reduce ear discomfort upon takeoff. Gum, mints or any beverage will help clear your ears as well.
I also suggest sucking on the zinc lozenges- any variety- I happen to like the ones combined with vitamin C. Zinc oral dissolvable products have been shown to reduce acquisition of respiratory viruses. Unfortunately, simply taking a zinc supplement that you swallow has not been shown to provide equal benefit.
If you have no contraindication to taking aspirin, a baby aspirin taken the day of your flight will reduce your risk for blood clots that can occur with prolonged sitting. Try to get up every hour or two and walk to the bathroom- that will help, too.
Nervous about flying? Talk to your doctor about a short-acting mild sedative or sleep aid (if the flight is long enough.) No need for embarrassment, as fear of flying is very common. I’d estimate I get this request close to once per week!
Should you wear a mask? I suppose if either YOU have a cough or your seatmate does, that is reasonable. My children and I are not wearing one now- and no one around us appears ill.
BOTTOM LINE: If your travel plans include flying, create your own "flying first aid" kit to take with you!

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