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Fly smart: 5 hacks to avoid the flu on your next flight during the holidays

Don’t let the virus ruin your Thanksgiving plans

Temperatures have dropped and the first snow has already fallen in many cities, which means two things. One, it’s time for mulled wine, turkey, gifts and celebration. And, two, it also marks the beginning of flu season.

Airlines for America projects an estimated record of 30.6 million passengers to fly on U.S. airlines over the Thanksgiving period. Whether your flight is two, six, eight hours or more, that journey could jeopardize your entire holiday plans.

In one of my recent trips, a day after arriving to New York City for the first time, I was knocked down to bed with a fever, achy body and all the flu symptoms that ever existed. Needless to say, it took me two weeks to shake it off. How about my plans in the city? Well, let’s just say I had to reschedule — all of it. By the time I was feeling better, I already had another flight to another city.

So, to make sure you don’t end up like I did, keep in mind these five tips next time you fly to make sure you can enjoy your trip healthy and the pharmacy won’t be the first store your visit.

Stay hydrated

Drinking at least three liters of water a day is essential, but when you’re spending a few hours on a plane, it’s even more important. The low humidity and closed cabin space creates a perfect environment for airborne germs to travel. You might have noticed before that your nose, mouth and throat dry out much easier on a flight. That dry air sabotages the mucous membranes, which act as a natural defense system protecting you from respiratory viruses. They can only be efficient, however, if kept in a moist state, meaning you must be hydrated. Having a nose spray handy also helps keep your nasal passages well-lubricated.

Disinfect your seat

Before taking a seat, just remember there must’ve been hundreds of thousands of passengers who have sat right where you’re about settle down. That means lots of room for bacteria to dwell as well. Have one of those small packs of antibacterial wipes on you and clean at least the arm rest and table, and if it’s a long flight, you should consider wiping off the back rest and seat as well.

Skip the alcohol and coffee

When on a flight, there’s one thing you have plenty of: time. And, to make it go by faster, many passengers like to enjoy alcohol and coffee. Yet I’m going to tell you that these could create a freeway to viruses as well. It relates back to hydration. Both drinks dehydrate your body putting you at a higher risk of catching a cold. Furthermore, alcohol also produces nutritional deficiency, weakening your immune system, your knight in shining armor that’s key to overall well-being. Ask for water and tea or purchase an Aloe Vera drink or other flavored beverages at the airport.

Turn on the overhead air vent

If you get cold on flights easily and want to ask for two more blankets when your neighbor opens the overhead air vent, this might not be your favorite. Having those fans open may be chilly, but they increase circulation and help filter the air in the cabin. If a passenger coughs or sneezes near you, the air vents push the germs away from you and allow filtered air to pass in front of you. Most flights nowadays have an updated circulation system, so opening those fans above your seat can lower the transmission of flu and cold.

Fuel up on good nutrients and vitamins pre-flight

I can’t emphasize enough that a strong immune system is the most important aspect of staying healthy. Eating nutritious, whole foods and taking some basic vitamins will help boost that armor. Have a healthy and balanced meal or shake and take some vitamin C and D as well as magnesium prior to boarding your flight or even before arriving to the airport. These simple steps help your body fight any airborne virus or bacteria that might be present on the aircraft.