How to Stay Healthy While Flying

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How to Stay Healthy While Flying
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Traveling by airplane can take a toll on our health, but there are some steps we can take to avoid getting sick along the way. We can take precautions while we are at the airport, visiting a hotel and checking out the destination. Dr. Travis Stork, co-host of "The Doctors" and a practicing board-certified emergency medicine physician, spends a fair amount of time on the road, and shares his top tips for keeping illness at bay during travel.

Avoid the Hot Spots
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Avoid the Hot Spots

Unfortunately, airplanes can be a breeding ground for unhealthy germs. "Don't be afraid of the germs, just be aware for you and your family," Stork said. "If you're going to go use the bathroom on an airplane, understand there were probably 300 people before you, maybe 10 percent of whom had a cold, so before you leave that bathroom you might want to shut the door with your elbow. Little tricks like that can actually prevent illness when you're traveling because there are so many germ hot spots."

Turn on the Air
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Turn on the Air

Germ hot spots are not limited to surface areas; they also can be transmitted in the air. To help combat bad germs in the air, Stork said to turn your airplane overhead vent on high and point it right in your face. That way, he said, if someone does cough or sneeze, it does provide a little bit of a barrier because it can push the air away from your face.

Keep Up the Fight
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Keep Up the Fight

To ward off unhealthy germs, reach for the soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer on a regular basis. "I prefer having the chance to wash my hands with good, old-fashioned soap and water, but alcohol-based hand sanitizers for those situations can be helpful and effective, too," Stork said.

Grab a Drink
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Grab a Drink

Flying on a plane comes with a very dry environment, so it's important to stay hydrated. Stork recommends skipping alcoholic or sugary beverages in favor of water or hot tea. "The biggest mistake I see people make is they order their first drink, maybe an alcoholic beverage, which is fine, then it’s a soda," he said. "Then they get to where they’re going, and they already are dehydrated, putting themselves at risk for getting sick. Their immune system is probably not at 100 percent."

Be Nosy
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Be Nosy

The dry environments of airplanes do more than just dehydrate your body. It also can adversely affect your nasal passages. "When you’re on an airplane, it’s really dry cabin air," Stork said. "There’s allergens and pollutants helping to clear out congestion and allergens and irritants in your nasal passages." Therefore, he recommends using a nasal saline spray to clear congestion and moisturize nasal passages.

Beware of Motion
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Beware of Motion

For many people, flying or long car trips are accompanied by motion sickness. To help your body combat this ailment, Stork suggests focusing on objects in your surroundings. "As opposed to reading while in a car, actually looking at things that are truly in your environment gives your body a better sense of time and space," he said. If you are prone to motion sickness, Stork recommends consulting with your doctor about possible medications.

Pack a Kit
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Pack a Kit

Whenever you travel, bring along a first aid kit that contains basic medical necessities. "I recommend getting a pre-made first aid kit from the American Red Cross," Stork said. You can then supplement it with those items required by your particular family. For instance, "if you have a child who is allergic to bee stings, then you’ve got your extra little kit with the EpiPen and the antihistamines," Stork said.

Get Your Zzzs
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Get Your Zzzs

Getting a good night's sleep can be challenging, especially if going across several time zones. To maximize your chance for restful sleep, Stork said to stay hydrated, minimize alcohol, minimize caffeine and stay active. Also, "when you get somewhere, try to adjust as quickly as possible," he said. "If you’re traveling to Europe, try to go to bed at the time you plan to go to bed during your time there."

Skip the Cab
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Skip the Cab

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, maintaining your regular exercise regimen can be difficult. To help you stay active, consider walking to destinations and events whenever possible. "I use map functions to figure out how to get to a location and walk instead of taking a cab," Stork said. "I plan my activity into my day."

Don't Try to Push Through
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Don't Try to Push Through

Despite our best efforts, there are times when we cannot avoid falling ill while traveling. When this happens, Stork said the best course of action is to take care of yourself right away. "If you do get sick on vacation, I’m a big believer in giving your body what it needs to get better," he said. "Rest, hydrate, eat healthy foods, and do things naturally that can help you feel better that don’t drag you down. Don’t overdo it."

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