Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to email@example.com.
QUESTION: My friend recently came back from visiting family overseas. A day later, she became really sick and ended up in the hospital. She’s convinced that she caught something on the plane. Is there any way to guard against that?
— Spiros A., Hull, Mass.
ANSWER: We fly a lot, and yes, there are precautions that any air travelers can take to guard against some of the pathogens you come into contact with on airplanes.
Your first defense against germs on a long flight is always your own immune system. There’s nothing wrong with training for a 24-hour trip from Boston to Australia. Seriously. More walks, less red meat, vitamins, more sleep — you know the drill. It can strengthen your immune system.
As for whether airplanes or air travel is a health risk, well, a recent New York Times article about healthy flying mentioned an interesting thing: Customer satisfaction with cabin cleanliness is up over the past few years.
However, there are still health risks associated with being in a closed environment with hundreds of people. So here are some tips for dodging trouble:
>> A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that people who sit in the window seat, away from in-cabin traffic, are least likely to come into contact with contaminated droplets (germs) in the air.
>> Bring disinfectant wipes for your tray table, and use them on your hands after visiting the rest-room. Environmental Protection Agency tests frequently have found that most airline water has bacteria in it.
>> Lastly, point your overhead air vent directly at yourself. While the cabin air filters reportedly remove 99.9 percent of bacteria, fungus and viruses from the air, the current itself will deflect germs away from you.
So, the next time you fly, buckle up and have a healthy flight.