Germ Warfare


I am sick of being sick. Having waged war on a cold for the last week and a half, I’m dreading being stuck at 30,000 feet this weekend with a few hundred sniffly, sneezy friendly fliers.

I usually bring a few preventative tools with me – Emergen-C, green tea, vitamins, Ocean spray (the Neti Pot for those on the go!).  I’m thinking about bringing a mini hand sanitzer with me on this trip. Any other ideas?

Image via Natalie Dee

Image via Natalie Dee

 MSN Health had a great Q&A with Dr. Andrew Weil yesterday about his tips for a healthy flight. You can find it below. 

Q. I have a trip coming up. How can I stay healthy during the plane ride?

A. As someone who does his fair share of traveling, I’ve developed a few favorite strategies, and with good reason: According to a 2002 study, about 1 in 5 people will come down with a cold within a week of flying—that’s approximately four times the risk they would have if they had stayed home. It’s unclear what causes this increased susceptibility. The same researchers found no link between the recirculated air in airplane cabins and colds. However, it’s possible that the low in-flight humidity levels dry out mucous membranes in the nose and eyes, which normally act as barriers against the viruses we’re more likely to pick up when sitting in close proximity to sick passengers.

Whatever the cause, the single most important thing you can do to prevent the transmission of colds and other contagious diseases is to wash your hands well and often, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (hand sanitizer works, too). The germs that cause colds, eye infections and other illnesses spread easily via the hands, so avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, too. To keep mucous membranes moist, drink plenty of water, and refrain from alcohol and caffeine, which may dehydrate you. Hydrating throat and saline nasal sprays may also help.

When traveling, I also take a few select supplements. First: Fungi Perfecti’s Host Defense for Travelers throat spray ($22; It contains a mix of five immune-boosting medicinal mushrooms. Spray it in your mouth every two hours while in flight.

I also like astragalus, an herbal supplement used in traditional Chinese medicine that may help prevent colds. Follow package directions and take it the day before and for a few days after your flight.

Learn how to stay healthier from making smarter choices everyday.

Also: Don’t forget to get up to stretch and walk around every hour or so. Physical activity helps prevent blood clots from forming in your legs.

Andrew Weil, M.D., is director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and is a pioneer in the use of natural healing therapies. He received his medical training at Harvard University.


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