Flying with a cold?

Here we go again. I am sitting in Johannesburg, South Africa with a cold and my flight leaves in a few hours. Aaaargh…. what now?

Well, shit happens. Flying when sick sucks! Being trapped with hundreds of people in a tiny meal tube, with less oxygen and dry air, is bad enough when you are healthy. But most of us have endured this at one time or another. Complaining doesn’t help. I need to suck it up and get home.

When you are sick and still in the comfort of your home, but have a scheduled flight coming up, you should always ask yourself “Should I even fly?”

A cold is often underestimated. Even when you feel physically up for enduring the length of the flight, you might get more than what you bargained for. The longer the flight, the worse the outcome. Even if you are on over-the-counter medications that make you feel O-kay at home, it’s a whole different story once you are in a plane. The cabin pressure drops after takeoff. When you have a viral infection or just allergies, your membranes are inflamed and swollen. That means your ears aren’t able to equalize, which could result in blocked ears, shooting pain and in extreme cases a ruptured eardrum. Crazy, huh? Once of the reasons flight attendants are totally eligible to call in sick when they have a little cold.

I don’t feel too bad right now, but I know that can change instantly. So I know the drill. I always carry a small First-Aid-Kit around in my suitcase with little helpers in case I get knocked down.

An hour before takeoff I take a decongestant like “Sudafed” (over the counter in every drugstore in the US). It helps to reduce the swelling and my ears to equalize, along with nose spray. Chewing gum or excessive yawning during the climb of the plane helps too (even thought its not very ladylike, I know).

STAY HYDRATED! I cannot stress it enough! I drink lots of water and tea! As important as it is anytime while flying, it’s especially crucial when sick. As mentioned in my blog “How does flying affect your body?” : When dry, the mucus becomes too thick to be moved by the cilia (little hairs) in your nose,  that normally push it along. The infectious bodies hang around and you get (even more) sick. The moisture will help prevent nasal secretions from drying, becoming uncomfortable and clogging up the Eustachian tube. So, keep it flowing guys!

I usually bring my own glass bottle with a little siphon on top and stuff it with cut ginger and lemon slices and just fill it with hot water. The steam soothes my upset mucus membranes and the ginger and lemon has an antibiotic effect.

While on board, be so kind and mind your neighbors and bring a hand sanitizer. Try to spread your germs as little as possible, would you? In Asia people wear medical disposable face masks when sick. They don’t do it not to get sick by others, but in order to not spread their own germs. Polite, huh? 🙂 You can buy them online through e.g. Amazon.

Once you get to your destination, take a hot shower or a nice hot bath and keep using the decongestants. You will feel a lot better, believe me.