• Staying healthy when you fly

    handkerchief-airplaneWhether you’re concerned about deep vein thrombosis, dehydration, sinus pressure, Ebola or other ailments, travelers should protect themselves when flying.

    As we enter flu season in North America, it’s increasingly important that travelers continue to practice safe hygiene. In particular, remember to wash your hands frequently, or use a hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol content or higher, or sanitizing wipes, and avoid direct contact with others, such as shaking hands or embracing.

    If you have blood clots in your family history, you may be at a slightly elevated risk of deep vein thrombosis if your flight is four hours or longer. If so, make sure to stretch your legs often, both figuratively and literally. Walk up and down the aisle once an hour, if the flight crew permits, or bend and straighten your legs and feet while seated. Elastic compression stockings may be of some use as well. Some of them are available without a prescription and can be purchased online or in a drugstore, but you should seek medical advice and ensure you have the right type of stockings and that they fit snugly, but comfortably.

    Air pressure aboard commercial airplanes is lower than it is at sea level and the air is particularly dry, which can exacerbate existing conditions. Regardless of any particular condition, remember to stay well hydrated, and that includes avoiding drinking dehydrating liquids, including (unfortunately) two of the most popular choices on long flights: coffee and alcohol.

    People who have sinus issues may need to stay grounded temporarily. The danger is when air pressure changes and your body is unable to compensate because of congestion. Of course, there are over-the-counter medications travelers can take before flying in order to help alleviate those conditions; the CDC suggests taking pseudoephedrine about 30 minutes before departure. Pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient in Sudafed and other similar medications.

    The Ebola virus is even less likely to be transmitted while aboard an airplane. Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air. Just as on the ground, you have to come in contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and they have to be actively symptomatic, in order for you to become sick.

    Although there is a lot of talk about recirculated air when aboard a pressurized aircraft, in fact, most modern aircraft (those built in the past 25 years) recirculate about 10 to 50 percent of the air and mix it with air from the outside. In recent model aircraft the air passes through HEPA filters, which eliminate 99.9 percent of particles. Also, the air circulates in sections along most airplanes, rather than up and down the length of the cabin, which inhibits wide circulation and transmission of infectious diseases while in the air.

    The inherent risks of air travel have not changed based on the recent news about the spread of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) and currently, CWT has not seen a significant change in business traveler behavior. The risk of getting EVD from normal business travel is exceptionally low.

    You can get updated info from the Federal Aviation Association, Centers for Disease Control, Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Health England and the World Health Organization.