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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Avoid getting sick during your travels

Summer is here, which means it’s time for vacation! Pack your clothes, put your liquids in three-ounce bottles and don’t forget to bring some hand sanitizer—that plane you’re about to board is full of germs.  
Germs are everywhere when you fly—in the airport, on the plane and sitting right next to you. 

“Traveling can be nerve-wracking for a number of reasons, but the possibility of getting sick is a big one,” said Richard Hale, D.O., a Geisinger family medicine provider. “From dry air on the plane to dirty surfaces, it’s important to remember to wash your hands and keep some other basic hygiene practices in mind.”

Here are some tips to stay healthy when you travel. 

Get defensive
It’s tough to get away from the woman sneezing in the aisle seat or the child coughing up a storm and not covering his mouth when you’re on a plane. However, there are precautions you can take to avoid the germs. Wearing a mask is useful even if you aren’t sick because it can keep the germs out. 

And using a saline nasal spray can help you avoid getting sick. “Plane air is very dry, which dries out the mucous membranes in your nose. When that happens, your body has a harder time resisting infection,” said Dr. Hale. 

Wipe down everything 
While flight attendants normally clean between each flight, they sometimes don’t have the time to get to all the tray stations, which means they could harbor viruses and bacteria. 

“The flu virus can live on hard surfaces like your tray table, armrests and the handle of the bathroom,” said Dr. Hale.

The best thing to do is carry wipes with you while you fly so you can wipe down your tray table, armrests and anything you’ll touch as soon as you board the plane, and even as an extra precaution after using the restroom. You should also carry hand sanitizer and use it before and after you eat anything. 

Of course, you should also wash your hands after you use the restroom. 

Pick a window seat, and stay there
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people who sat in the window seat of a plane were less likely to come into contact with germs that could make them sick. 

Picking a window seat and staying in it keeps you from the action-packed aisles—and it also means there’s no one sitting on one side of you.

“While it’s a good idea to get up and move around on a long flight to encourage circulation, if you can minimize your chances of coming into contact with a sick passenger, you should,” said Dr. Hale. 
Don’t fly when you’re sick
Finally, this should be a no-brainer, but if you’re sick, flying probably isn’t the best option for you. Not only will you be uncomfortable, but you risk getting other people sick as well. 

While you may have been looking forward to that big vacation, the best thing to do is stay home, relax and book your flight for another time. If you do have to fly, be courteous of others and wear a mask while you’re traveling to avoid spreading the illness.
Richard Hale, D.O., is a primary care physician at Geisinger Pottsville. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hale or another primary care physician, call 570-624-4444 or visit
People sitting on an airplane
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