Picture this: You’re heading out of town for a much-needed vacation. You board your plane and buckle up. You take a deep breath, and just when you’re about to crack open The New York Times best-seller you bought at the newsstand, someone sneezes. Someone’s sick.
The bad news is that, according to a recent study by data scientists from Emory University and Georgia Tech, there’s about an 80 percent chance you’re taking that cold with you when you get off the plane. And those odds increase when you consider all the germs that may be lingering from previous travelers.
The good news is that you can prepare your body so the germs you encounter on board don’t stand a chance against your immune system. Take note of these tips for flying so you’re more likely to make it to your destination without contracting a cold.
- Choose Water Over Alcohol
It may sound fun to booze up on a plane, but according to the World Health Organization, it can worsen your jet lag — likely because it increases your chances of dehydration, which experts at Harvard Medical School say also enhances jet lag. The worse your jet lag, the less likely you are to sleep well, and that, in turn, can make you more vulnerable to germs and infection. It’s a vicious cycle. Plus, when you consider that an airplane is drier than the Sahara desert and you may lose up to 2 liters of water during your flight, you can’t afford to not drink water if you want to stay hydrated and keep your immune system in fighting form.
- Arm Your Body With Superfoods
One of your best defenses against catching a cold when you fly is to give your body the tools it needs to fight them off. Fruits and vegetables top the list. Apples and oranges are great sources of vitamin C and vitamin A. Other superfoods, such as spinach and broccoli, aren’t exactly ideal travel snacks.
Om Mushroom Immune+ capsules and drink sticks are a great option designed for convenience — which makes it perfect for taking before, during or after a flight. The drink sticks come in a fruity super berry flavor that you can add to your water bottle. It contains a blend of four superfood mushrooms that go to work in your body to help support your immune system. And remember this: Taking care of your immune system shouldn’t stop when you’re off the plane. Drink lots of water, eat foods rich in vitamin C and consider Om Restore — a blend of king trumpet, Cordyceps militaris, Reishi and Antrodia camphorata mycelial biomass cultured on organic oats — which can help your body manage its response to inflammation. As with all functional mushrooms, take them daily over an extended period of time to begin to reap their full benefits.
- Carry Hand Sanitizer and Antibacterial Wipes
Think about all the surfaces everyone touches when they get on an airplane. Those are most likely to be hosting germs from sick travelers. It’s not just the restroom. One study sent microbiologists out to discover the dirtiest surfaces on a plane. Tray tables, air vents, copies of SkyMall and seatbelt buckles topped the list, along with the flush button to flush the toilet. Another study found that germs survived on seatback pockets longer than on any other surface on the plane. The solution? Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Experts recommend swiping surfaces with wipes that contain at least 62% alcohol. Pack the wipes. Pack the spray. Do what you gotta do.
- Get Your Sleep
If you’re looking for an excuse to indulge in a good, long nap after your flight, here it is. Remaining well-rested is another way to make sure your immune system recovers from the stress of travel and can fight off any germs you may have picked up. According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, our bodies produce more immune cells when we’re sleeping, and sleep improves those immune cells’ ability to fight off infection. So, grab the eye mask and dim the lights. If you need help sleeping, take some Reishi before bed — this powerful superfood mushroom has complex polysaccharide compounds that can help stimulate the immune system.
- Make Time for Light Exercise
No need to run 5 miles or attend a high-intensity spin class. In fact, intense exercise may briefly hinder your immune system according to the International Journal of Sports Medicine. But the fact remains: exercising is good for you. Staying active and elevating your heart rate can help regulate cortisol, making you less prone to infection. Regular walks, easy jogging or even jumping jacks can help arm you against travel-related illnesses.
Catherine Conelly is a former beauty and health editor turned freelance writer and digital marketer. She’s written for Shape, Thrillist, PopSugar and StyleCaster. Her work has also appeared on Forbes, Entrepreneur, the Glassdoor blog, and Adidas Game Plan A.