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In-Flight Infections

How can I avoid In-Flight Infections?

Question

With summer holidays coming up, I'm very concerned about picking up infections on long- or short-haul flights. Since smoking was banned on flights, airlines have saved money by changing their cabin air less frequently, and many passengers, like myself, catch colds, respiratory infections and viruses. Could you recommend any antibacterial sprays or throat lozenges that might reduce the likelihood of infection? Also, when travelling, should you drink water only from sealed bottles to avoid infection?

Answer

While airline travel has opened up the world, it has also brought many problems. As well as infections, complications linked to flying include backache, deep vein thrombosis and, of course, jet lag. Gastroenteritis has been linked to in-flight provisions, so it is clearly safer to drink water from a sealed bottle.

Travel in itself can stress the body, as doctors have known for centuries. Back in the 11th century, Avicenna, the great Persian physician, identified travelling as a cause of illness. He described how change of food, later, climate and environment, plus the physical and mental strain on travellers, affected the immune system, or 'healing power' as he called it.

Preparing (or any journey is stressful. As well as dealing with tickets and passports, you have to pack, organise things at home, often get up early to reach the airport on time (deadlines are always stressful), and queue endlessly. The build-up runs down your energy before you start, so that you are vulnerable to infection.

The speed of modern travel subjects the body and brain to greater strain than ever before. What really makes the difference is the quality of the air and the atmospheric pressure. Pure oxygen-rich air invigorates the body; lack of it may lead to illness. Additionally, air travel imposes a slow, continuous stress with the sheer number of passengers cramped into a small space, restricted movement, inability to sleep properly, plus the fear of accidents, especially if there is turbulence.

Infections are always rife in communal places, and airborne diseases are a real problem, as you suggest. There have been cases of virulent infections, including tuberculosis, spreading among passengers. Viral flu is very common. However, airlines are unlikely to improve their air-conditioning systems because of the expense and, in any case, it is difficult to prove that infection is spread in this way.

    This is what I suggest Forward Planning
  • Prepare yourself well in advance, so that tickets, passport, packing and domestic arrangements are organised.
  • Take a good multivitamin and mineral (eg, Dr Ali's, capsules) and a zinc supplement such as Biocare Zinc citrate (tablets) daily from one week before the flight until one week after, to boost your immune system.
  • The day before you fly and the day after arriving, massage your neck, shoulders and feet; if possible, get someone to massage your back. Also, using the pads of your fingers, massage your jaw and scalp, where a lot of tension and tightness occur. You could use my Lifestyle Oil or two tablespoons of sweet almond oil with three drops of lavender essential oil (from health food stores).
  • In flight

  • Just before you embark then every, three hours of flight time, put two drops of Sinus Oil or one part mustard oil and two parts organic sesame oil into your nostrils and sniff up. (You can make this up in a dark glass bottle and keep in a cool place for up to three months.) This clears the nasal passage and also forms a protective layer on the mucus lining, which prevents dust panicles and germs from penetrating the membrane of the nasal tract. I don't recommend proprietary antibacterial sprays or lozenges: natural mustard oil (also in Sinus Oil) has antibacterial and antiviral properties. As an extra precaution, you could pour a drop of eucalyptus oil on a tissue and sniff in to clear the nasal passages when necessary.
  • Practise this breathing exercise for three minutes every three hours of flight time: breathe in for three seconds, hold your breath for six seconds and exhale for six seconds. This will not disturb your fellow passengers. It will clear the nasal passages and remove mucus, which also reduces the potential breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Massage the three pairs of sinus points: on the eyebrow bone, above the inner corners of the eyes; on either side of the nose midway, and halfway down the line from nose to mouth.
  • If the chilly air from the overhead air-conditioning unit is directed at your forehead, it can cause sinus problems. So ensure that it is directed away from your face.
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