How to flu & cold-proof your flight

Nov 20, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. ET

There is absolutely nothing worse than getting sick over the holidays. Instead of spending your hours caroling, drinking far too much eggnog and laughing with friends and family, you're stuck in bed with a nasty bug you contracted on your flight home. Avoid spending your holidays sick as a dog with these easy tips on how to flu-proof your flight!

Woman sneezing on plane

They key to staying in tip-top shape this year is not only taking the proper remedies (like a few vitamins before a long flight), but also staying smart. Because flu and respiratory illnesses aren't often airborne, sometimes the cause of your sickness is you! With these easy tips, you'll be able to enjoy your flight, sickness-free.

pillowGet plenty of rest preflight

Unless you are one of those people who can get restful, blissful sleep on an airplane, we suggest getting plenty of shut-eye the week leading up to your flight. That means no more late night Snooki & JWow and a prompt bedtime. According to a study done by Carnegie-Mellon University, insomniacs and short sleepers are three times more likely to contract a cold than those who get six to eight hours of shut-eye. Sleep restores your body's cortisol levels, which are used to boost the immune system. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep before your flight to ensure you stay healthy.

Take vitamins and cold prevention

Saying this is like saying "brush your teeth twice a day," but it's rather surprising how many people forgo their daily vitamins, especially during the holiday season. Although an A-Z women's vitamin (like this one) is your best bet to ensure you get the daily dosage of most of the essentials, there are some vitamins that play a larger role in preventing sickness. Vitamin D, for example, has a strong effect on the immune system. Doctors recommend at least 1,000 IU a day. Another key vitamin for immune strength is zinc, which is naturally found in chocolate and pumpkin seeds. Although the OTC remedies like Airborne have not been shown to be effective in prevention, a dose when you feel the onset of sickness can reduce your downtime.

Get a flu shot

Getting a flu-shot is another no-brainer that a surprising number of people don't do. The flu shot is the single most effective way to prevent the flu, especially in tight spaces like airplanes. The CDC urges every American, primarily young children, pregnant women, anyone with a chronic illness or those over 65 to get immunized every single year. And don't think a last minute (read day of your flight) shot is going to cover you. These are certainly not instant germ fighters. It takes about two weeks after a shot for antibodies to develop and help protect your body. Check out this health map on where you can find flu shots near you!

Pack a "healthy" kit in your carry on

For those over-packers, you are going to have to consolidate a little better this year to make room for this cold-fighting essential, a healthy kit! We recommend filling a toiletry bag (or medium-size jewelry bag) with disease fighting must-haves, like antibacterial sanitizer, soap, Tylenol, tissue, nasal spray, lip balm and vitamin C chewables, to name a few. In addition, stock your vitamins and first aid materials in this pack too. As for how much, the American Lung Association recommends bringing enough supplies for your round-trip flight and a few extra packs of tissue because the flu can be transmitted up to three feet after a sneeze.

More healthy travel tips

Tips for healthy travel
The long flight survival guide
Travel healthy tips for you: Real Mom's guide