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How to Avoid the Flu when Traveling

 

How to Avoid the Flu when Traveling


By Murray Grossan, M.D. Cedars-Sinai, Author of "The Sinus Cure"


The thought of getting sick when traveling with a new type of virus on the loose is quite scary. A measure of good news is that by taking some common sense steps you can dramatically increase your chances of staying healthy.


My patient, EJ, hadn’t flown in 5 years because she would be sick for a week after every flight. As though fate was against her, she always managed to sit next to the person on the flight who was coughing and had never heard of Kleenex.


Most airplanes today recirculate the air. There was a comparison of flights with filtered and unfiltered fresh air, which actually showed that there was little observable difference —both found about a 20% incidence of common cold and flu among passengers who fly. This 20% is much too high to be an acceptable number. In fact, many of these cold and flu cases are preventable.


The primary reason that you catch a cold or flu is failure of the natural defense of the body Mucociliary Clearance system. This is the protective system that grabs the virus and bacteria, and moves it by nasal cilia action to the stomach where the acids kill the bacteria or virus. Normally these cilia move at 15 pulses per second. They act as oars to move a blanket of thin mucus inside the nose, where the virus is trapped, out of the nose to the stomach. This prevents the virus from infecting the body through the nose. But the key here is thin mucus.


On commercial flights the air is quite dry. This dries the nose. So, even if the cilia do their best, the mucus is still too thick to move. Because it is stagnant, bacteria and viruses can multiply and enter the body. Therefore it is vital to intake adequate fluids during flight. These fluids do not include alcohol and coffee. What is needed is warm water, preferably a green tea with mint — and lots of it! Lemon and honey are also good. Warm tea with or without caffeine helps move the cilia. Ice drinks slow the cilia. Since the key here is moisturizing the nose, a nasal moisturizing gel is beneficial.


Many ordinary medications may dry the nose. For my patients I find that certain types of nasal moisturizing gels are best. The reason the gels are best is that in order for the virus to enter the body it must attach to a nasal protein called ICAM-1. A gel with the appropriate formulation can help to prevent this attachment. The best gels have ingredients which allow the body's natural defense elements — lysozyme, good white blood cells, etc., to be able to travel to where they are needed to fight invading organisms in this way. Read the ingredients to see if your gel aids lysozyme action. For example, Breathe-ease XL Nasal Moisturizing Gel is a water soluble gel that can cover the nasal membranes and provide moisture & protection to the area.


Avoid getting chilled as that will lower your resistance. Avoid undue fatigue. For saline type sprays, use before boarding, and about every two hours during the flight. With gels, use before boarding and about every 3-4 hours during flight. In particular, use twice a day after arrival as this will help fight any infection trying to get a foothold. Don't forget the liquid intake!


Some doctors may prescribe an antibiotic ointment that similarly covers the nasal membranes, and as an antibiotic kills certain bacteria. The problem here is that they are expensive, and most require the use of fingers or a Q tip to get it positioned, and there is the risk of developing a sensitivity or resistance to the antibiotic. For example Breathe-ease XL nasal gel has an “in the nose” applicator and only contains natural ingredients. Whatever gel or ointment is used it MUST be water soluble, only water soluble products should be used in the nose. Petroleum-based or other non-water soluble materials could end up in the lungs, where they could remain permanently.


Good hand washing is also crucial, and simply using soap and water is best. Wash often to remove flu virus before you put your hands near your eyes, mouth or nose.


One reason we typically get flu in winter is the depression that comes with the dark days and cold. In fact, bright lights can actually lift your mood and help the immune system. So staying up beat and getting light is key!


Final tips. Avoid a meal three hours before sleep. Sleep is paramount to keeping the immune system up. Try to keep an exact sleep schedule. To set your sleep clock, go to sleep at the same hour and practice the same habits every night – wash face, brush hair, brush teeth, etc. Safe travels and hopefully it is off to someplace sunny and warm...


 

Source: *Aircraft Cabin Air Recirculation and Symptoms of the Common

Cold Jessica Nutik Zitter; Peter D. Mazonson; Dave P. Miller; Stephen

B. Hulley; John R. Balmes - Journal of the American Medical

Association. 2002; 288:483-486


 
     


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