Many people will be flying this month and next to celebrate the holidays with family. Many people will also be experiencing cold and sinus symptoms this month and next due to changing temperatures and new and different allergens, and increased time spent inside and exposed to germs. While flying with a cold is no fun, sometimes there’s just no way around it.
How do you know if you’re too sick to fly? If you’re experiencing a fever or symptoms you can’t control with over-the-counter medications, you might want to consider rescheduling your trip. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidelines for who might be too sick to fly: namely those with a fever of 100 degrees or more, a severe cough, difficulty breathing, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
If you don’t meet any of those criteria and your runny nose, sniffles or cough seem controllable, here are a few tips for flying with a cold:
Pack a Healthy Carry-On: Think of all the things that you need when you have a cold and make sure you have plenty of them in your carry-on, purse, or personal item. Facial tissues, cough drops, lip balm, and hand sanitizer will make you more comfortable. Gum is also a good idea as the jaw movement and swallowing can open up your Eustachian tube and help keep ears from clogging.
Before You Board: Over-the-counter decongestants can help shrink swollen tissue in nasal passages as well as reducing swelling around Eustachian tubes giving your ears a better shot at equalizing. Taken about an hour before flying, these medicines can offer some sinus congestion relief and make for a more comfortable flight. If you are extremely congested, consider using a nasal spray about 30 minutes before takeoff.
Hydrate: Sip water or herbal tea. Staying hydrated can help flush viruses from your body as well as thinning mucus and soothing irritated throats. You don’t want to drink too much though—no one wants to use the airplane bathroom.
Invest In Ear Plugs: Traveling with cold, sinus, or allergy issues can really wreak havoc on your ears, even if they aren’t normally sensitive. Earplugs made specifically for air travel might be a worthwhile investment. These helpful and inexpensive gadgets help regulate the pressure so that ears do not get clogged and uncomfortable during the rapid cabin pressure changes of take-off and landing.
After You Land: Try to take a hot shower as soon as you reach your hotel or family’s home. This will help you get rid of any new or additional germs you picked up in the airport or on the plane. Additionally, the hot water and steam will soothe angry, inflamed, and irritated mucous membranes. Avoid chlorinated pools as the chemicals might aggravate your symptoms.