Guarding Against Airplane Germs

Jan. 14, 2006 — -- Manufacturers are capitalizing on the fact that many of us need to travel, but we don't want to get sick. As a result, there are tons of products out there. Regardless of their medical efficacy, some might just make you feel better about staying germ-free in the air.

Germ-Fighting Travel Products

Here is some information on popular products that say they'll help fight off airplane infections.

Airborne, $5.99 - $10.99 The main supplements Airborne provides are vitamin C, zinc, echinacea and ginger. Echinacea has been touted as a way to shorten colds, but there's no conclusive evidence for that. Pregnant women should talk to their doctors before taking Airborne because it packs a large dose of vitamin A, which is something pregnant women need to limit.

Emergen-C, $5.99 - $10.99 This supplement is big on vitamin C and zinc. I take the one with glucosamine and chondroitin, recommended by my orthopedist so my knees won't hurt when I get off the plane.

Flight Spray Nasal Spray, $14.85 This is another herbal product that carries no Food and Drug Administration approval. The ingredients in here are spearmint and turmeric. Think of it as Chapstick for your nasal passages, but don't expect an antigerm force field emanating from your schnoz.

PlaneWrap Seat Wrap, $6.95 You may not actually get sick from your seat, blanket, tray or armrest, but they're pretty communal and there's a high "ick" factor. These seat covers are usually made of polypropylene or antimicrobial (germ-repelling) fabric that covers your seat like a hairnet. There are also covers for your tray and armrests. Most of the germs that infect you enter through your mouth. So if you don't lick the seat or put the blanket in your mouth, you can stave off fabric-based germs. If you want to get serious about germs in your seat, use an alcohol-based sanitizer to wipe off your tray and armrest.

PlaneWrap Feetwrap, $9.85 These slipperlike feet wraps are also known as shower shoes. Sure, wear them if you want. If you are sporting flip-flops as you walk through security, bust out a pair of these booties. FeetWrap will keep you free from foot fungus and germs. How about you just wear socks?

Surgical Mask, around 40 cents per mask They work, they are cheap and people will stare at you. For the immunocompromised, however, they are really important to use.

Brookstone Travel Ionic Air Purifier, $60 The device uses electricity to create ions. They claim to be magnets for particles in the air. These are not medical devices and have not received medical approval.

Protect Yourself Like Becky Worley Does

I flew more than 100,000 miles last year, and I never got sick except once -- when I took my goddaughter to Disney World. (The kiddie germs get you every time.) So despite that one sign of weakness, I have a pretty good record of staying healthy despite the hours of airplane exposure.

Here's how to protect yourself when you travel:

Drink a lot of water I fill up a two-liter Nalgene bottle for every four hours I am traveling. I try to drink a half a liter an hour. These clear plastic bottles add no taste to the water and are incredibly sturdy.

Turn on the air. Some experts think the air vents above your seat can help push away the germs that might float into your space.

Try to catch some sleep on the flight. Try using a neck pillow, eye mask and earplugs and see if any of these can help you nap. Most of us get sick when we are stressed or tired. If you can learn to sleep on the plane, you might be able to stave off a little of that exhaustion.

Bring a scarf or a small blanket. Who wants to wrap up in a stranger's blanket? Ick! Ick!

Wash your hands as often as you can. Be sure to get warm water and soap on your hands. Some studies show increased levels of bacteria in water that comes out of the spigot in the airplane bathrooms, so if you're worried about that, carry a hand sanitizer and use it after you wash all the dirt off your hands.

Keep your regular schedule when you travel. Eat the same breakfast, work out the same amount and avoid all the excesses that travel can bring. It's boring advice, but it works.

Get a massage. Some studies show that massage can help to boost your immunity. De-stressing can't be bad, and massage is one of those remedies worth making time for.