Saturday, March 24, 2018

Life With Chronic Conditions: Staying Healthy When You Fly

A new study has recently been released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about the risks of getting sick from flying. With that in mind, here are tips to keep you safer and healthier if you are flying at any time of the year:

• Window seat passengers get up less often so consequently are less exposed, then those who sit on the aisles, to people walking by coughing and hacking. That said, if you need to use the bathroom more frequently, the aisle is a better option.

• Sitting still in cramped seats can increase risk for thrombosis-blood clots form in the legs. To reduce risk of a clot breaking off and moving to the lung get up every three-four hours and walk around or flex your legs (pressing down on your heels and up with your toes).

• Carry and use sanitizing gel with 60% alcohol. Before you eat or drink sanitize. Sanitize after you wash your hands in the bathroom sink as airplane water is not that clean.

• Staying hydrated while flying is important. If you have a suppressed immune system, don’t drink the water. While improvements have been made in water quality, bottled water is your safest bet. You can take an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at the water fountain, and there are also good filtration systems you can purchase for water bottles as an extra safety measure. Avoid soft drinks, alcohol and coffee as these are natural diuretics causing more frequent urination. For long trips, it’s recommended that you start hydrating the day before

• Use the restroom before boarding the plane in order to avoid having to use one during the flight. If you do use the on board bathroom, close the lid before flushing, using a paper towel between your hand and the lid and the handle. Wash hands thoroughly, using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and use hand sanitizer when you return to your seat.

Touching your eyes is one of the primary means of transmitting cold and flu viruses. If you have germs on your hands, they can travel through the tear ducts to the nasopharynx at the back of the throat, where cold viruses do their damage. Because it’s so dry on a plane, eyes become dry and you are more apt to rub them. To avoid this, keep hands as clean as possible. If you wear contacts, remove them for the flight, opting for glasses instead.

• Bring your own pillow and blanket. Not only will you sleep better, but it will be germ free

• Bring your own food. A lot of airlines no longer offer food

• Air pressure is lower on a plane than it is at seal level. This isn’t a problem for most people. However, older people, those with heart conditions or other pre existing conditions can have problems. Check with your medical provider before planning a trip that involves a long plane travel.

• If you have a cold, but need to travel, use a tissue as well as direct the sneeze into the inside of your elbow. Wear a mask.

• If you need to travel with medication, you will need to meet the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) standards. Know the regulations on your medication before arriving at the airport. According to the TSA, travelers can bring medications in pill or solid forms onto airplanes in unlimited amounts as long as they're screened. If your medication is liquid, you don't have to follow the rules that apply to other liquids in carry-ons. For example, you're permitted to pack medically necessary liquids in carry-on containers larger than 3.4 ounces as long as the medication is in a "reasonable quantity" for your flight. You also don't have to place liquid medications in a zip-close bag. However, if you do have a medically necessary liquid in your carry-on, you have to give your TSA agent a heads-up about it at the beginning of the security screening process.

The TSA recommends packing medication in a carry-on in the event that you should need it on the flight, but travelers are permitted to pack their medicines in either their carry-ons or checked luggage. Medication is usually screened by an X-ray at security, but you can request to have yours inspected rather than X-rayed if you want. Make sure to make this request before sending any of your items through the X-ray tunnel.

Note, each U.S. state has its own individual laws regarding the labeling of prescription medication, so if you're traveling domestically within the United States, educate yourself on the state laws you need to know before traveling with your medications.

Travelers flying internationally with prescription medication should keep in mind that their medicines could be considered illegal substances under local laws in other countries. If this is a concern, contact the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit to make sure your medications are OK to take abroad. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides traveler health information, including information on drug regulations in specific destinations.

Additionally, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has guidelines for people traveling with internationally-controlled drugs. If your treatment falls under this category, check the UNODC website to see how your medications are regulated on an international basis.

Additional Reading

• Jet lag can wreck a lot more than a trip. Moving through time zones can play havoc with our bodies, leading to extreme fatigue along with indigestion, bowel problems, loss of appetite, memory and concentration issues. The expression “west is best, east is a beast” is actually true simply because you’ll be waking up when your body is trying to sleep. Your body is better equipped to cope with a longer day than a shorter one. Check out How to Get Over Jet Lag: 14 Tips for Beating Time Zone Tiredness

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