How to avoid sickness while travelling this Christmas

Stock image.
Stock image.

CRAMPED economy seats, a poor selection of in-flight entertainment and terrible cabin meals while annoying, won’t be enough to dampen your holiday spirits when travelling this Christmas season.

However, catch a nasty cold, or worse, an infectious disease on your flight and you could be spending your vacation stuck in a hotel room – or worse, hospital.

While most of us prepare for a trip by packing our bags, making sure we have enough space on our camera and listing all the hotspot you want to visit when you arrive at your destination – many don’t take the necessary precautions to avoid illness while flying.

According to a spokeswoman from Department of Health, while the transmission of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, and influenza during commercial air travel are uncommon, the conventional wisdom is that any risk of infection is related to the proximity of the infected case.

“In this regard, aeroplanes are not much different from other forms of mass transit or crowded public places,’’ she said.

“If someone next to you is coughing or sneezing, request a seat change.

“Wash your hands often, especially before eating and after going to the toilet. And use alcohol-based hand rub if no running water is available.”

St John of God Murdoch Hospital’s Infection Control manager Gerald Chan said good personal hygiene was essential to staying healthy during a flight and while on holiday.

“Make sure you plan ahead of your flight. Think about taking a small bottle of antibacterial hand rub in your travel luggage to facilitate good hand hygiene,” he said.

“Keeping your hands clean is the first step in reducing your risks to acquiring an infection, as bacteria/viruses can be transmitted from contaminated surfaces to hands and then to one’s mouth/nose fairly easily.

“This may then lead to the acquisition of common infections such as gastro.”

Mr Chan encouraged travellers to wipe their food trays with antibacterial wipes prior to usage and having a shower and changing your clothes after long flights.

He also suggested protecting yourself against the flu.

“This can be done easily by visiting your GP or your local chemist but has to be appropriately timed for the vaccine to work effectively,’’ he said.

“The flu vaccine generally takes about two weeks from vaccination to work effectively with coverage peaking within the first three months then tapering downwards.

“The other step that can be taken to protect yourself against droplet/airborne associated infections is having a face mask handy in your pocket.

“It may appear extreme to some, but if the traveller next to you is unwell and coughing/spluttering quite significantly and the flight is full, you’d want to limit your risks with picking up his or her bugs.”

According to smarttraveller.gov.au it is common for travellers to become ill while overseas (some life-threatening) and recommended all travellers seek good health advice before their departure.

The online health checklist includes; a check-up with your GP to discuss any vaccines you might need for the country you are visiting and any other medication you might need to take with you.

Those with pre-existing or chronic health problems are urged to get a health check-up to ensure their condition is stable and to develop a plan for managing their condition while travelling.