I fly a lot. I mean, A LOOOOOOT.
Every week, I’m on a plane to travel for work. Every. Single. Week.
Planes are really just expensive busses with wings. Passengers are herded everywhere like cattle. I’m constantly surrounded by stressed out people in a rush, many of whom don’t know the ‘rules’ of traveling or how to make traveling easier on themselves.
Traveling for work is not nearly as glamorous as many people make it out to be. Remember that pic of Louis Linton getting off of a government plane all decked out in high fashion?
Yup. DEFINITELY not traveling for work in real life.
Instead, imagine masses of stressed-out people forced to endure small spaces at exorbitant prices.
So much for glamour.
And now enter flu season, stage left.
I know this flu season is especially tough. I feel like every week, there are more reports of healthy people dying of the virus. People are on high alert, and rightfully so.
But have we taken it too far?? How DO you prevent yourself from catching the flu on a plane?
Well…lots of people are creating their own prevention methods. Just last week, I flew from Burlington, VT to Florida. There were three people on the flight with surgical masks. The flight was a small one – maybe 50 people on board – so this was an UNUSUALLY high number of masked faces.
My seat neighbor was one of these masked travelers. She also wiped down the surface of the tray table and arm rests as soon as she sat down, clearly trying to sanitize her area to prevent infection. (Side note – she did not seem to be sick or going through any kind of cancer treatment. She may very well have been, so I’m not knocking her for this!)
Her area was very well sanitized – she couldn’t POSSIBLY get the flu with all this sanitization, could she?
Masks aren’t proven to filter the air like many people think. According to the FDA, “While a facemask may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, a facemask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes or certain medical procedures.”
This is largely due to the fact that no mask (accept for a gas mask) creates an air-tight seal. Masks droop and have gaps around the sides of the face and nose. They are very good at preventing direct splashes to the face, but not very great at filtering the air that you breathe.
Putting on a mask ultimately helps protect the OTHER people you’re around rather than yourself. If you cough or sneeze, the mask prevents those disease-carrying droplets from spraying everywhere like an invisible fire hose of sickness.
Also, strangely enough, she never used hand sanitizer. Washing your hands is the #1 way to prevent the spread of disease. She covered her face with a mask, sanitized everything around her, but never ‘washed’ her hands.
So, ultimately, as she’s wiping everything down, she’s also spreading whatever is on her hands BACK onto the very things she just cleaned.
See the irony there?
If you want to travel but also don’t want to get sick, please wash your hands. I highly doubt that the airport and the airplanes get a deep clean every day, so everything you touch has been touched by thousands of other people. My hand sanitizer travels with me everywhere.
And my number one FAVORITE way to prevent getting sick? It has nothing to do with what’s around you. Instead, focus on what you already have going on INSIDE you.
Did you guess it yet? Give up?
It’s to boost your own immune system! What better way to prevent getting sick than let your body do the disease fighting for you?! This is the entire reason a vaccine was created for the flu. (PS – GET YOUR FLU SHOT!)
Giving your body a fighting chance is always the best policy. I try and boost my intake of probiotics, kombucha, and vitamins this time of year for this very reason. Emergen-C travel packs also have a spot in my travel bags.
Also, you can easily get more immune-boosting power from certain foods. Foods in the citrus and cabbage family, leafy greens, and garlic are all good things to include when you’re trying to boost your immune system. You can find a list of immune system boosting foods here.
So the next time you go to reach for your handy airplane mask, please realize it won’t help you as much as you think it will. IF you have a weakened immune system, then by all means, rock that mask! But for you healthy folks out there…leave the mask at home and grab some hand sanitizer and a probiotic instead.