This is the time of year when everyone in the northern half of the country is either struggling with a cold or just getting over one. And this year has been a particularly bad one for colds and related nastiness, especially in the Northeast.
Think about the essential unfairness of this: You’re shoveling out from under nine feet of snow, give or take a foot (because what’s a foot to give or take when you have eight others to share?) and then on top of that ignominy your throat feels like it’s been gone over with a belt sander, your head is a solid block of concrete, everything sounds like you’re inside of a diving bell, and you can only talk in Johnny Cash impersonations.
And you have to travel on top of that?
It happens. It happens a lot. And there are two issues when you travel with a winter sickness: You want to feel reasonably uncrummy, and you don’t want to infect those around you.
(All these feelings are magnified by a factor of roughly 30 if you are traveling with a small child with the sickness. You want them to be comfortable, you don’t want them to infect others, and you want them to suffer in something approaching silence, which sometimes is practically impossible. We are not in the habit of recommending child sedation on flights, but we understand why some parents think it’s necessary.)
There are ways to accomplish the twin goals of comfort and non-contagion when you travel. Here are some of our favorites:
Don’t get sick in the first place. Easy to say, right? But in late winter more than any other time of year you have to do the right things. Eat a balanced diet high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. Get exercise. Take your vitamins. Get plenty of rest. Your trip-planning process should include planning to take a healthy body on that trip. So take care of it – and if you can’t take care of it all the time, focus on it a couple of weeks before you travel.
When you feel sickness coming on, hit it hard. Dana in our office is continually exposed to a wide variety of grade-school microbes, and she swears by Airborne. It doesn’t keep her 100 percent healthy all the time – those grade-school microbes can get pretty nasty – but it seems to do a good job of lessening the incidence and severity of colds and sore throats.
Stay hydrated. This is the No. 1 thing you can do for your own comfort and the protection of those around you. Basically, on a plane, the more you drink the less you cough, and the less you cough the less chance of infecting those around you. Proper hydration while flying also lessens the sandpaper-throat feeling that accompanies many colds, making you feel better in the process.
Honey straws. There’s actually a broad body of research on the antibacterial effects of honey. In an ideal world, if you’re flying with a cold, you’d want to pop some honey every now and then to knock down the bacteria and give your throat a soothing coat. Problem: You don’t want a honey bear in your carryon. Answer: Buy some honey straws, like those from ebeehoney.com, and stick a half-dozen in your bag. When you’re feeling raw, just bite off the end and suck down the honey. And feel the soothe.
Earplugs. Takeoffs and landings are the worst if your cold has backed up into your ears. Nothing can make these events pain-free, but a good pair of flight earplugs can help. EarPlanes are the most frequently recommended and popular brand of earplugs for dealing with flight-related pressure, but the Earplug Superstore has a complete rundown on all the top brands. One note: If you are traveling with children over the age of three earplugs are a must. If you don’t know why you’ll find out soon enough.
Masks. Masks on airplanes first hit the news during the H1N1 scare, but you’ll find travelers donning masks all the time, especially on international flights this time of year. It looks a little creepy to see a planeload of people wearing masks, but it’s a reasonable precaution for travelers with compromised immune systems or folks who just don’t want to come down with the creeping crud.
Which, come to think of it, is just about everyone.
Editor’s Note: Here’s another prudent step you can take, regardless of how you feel: Travel insurance from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. AirCare and ExactCare offer great coverage for all your trips — and that’s bound to make you feel better.