We all live for our holidays, so the last thing we want is to spend those precious days in our sickbeds. While air travel is probably the best invention in the world, one drawback is that more than a fifth of people believe they’ve been made ill after travelling on a plane. A combination of factors can bring about illness, including fellow passengers bringing bacteria and viruses on board that can survive for days.
As we are often around people from many different countries when we travel, we may be exposed to virus strains that our bodies haven’t come into contact with before. Without having acquired immunity to that particular strain, we’re more likely to get ill. As well as that, travelling in general can take its toll on the body.
With this in mind, we asked some airline staff for tips on staying healthy while travelling. After all, they’re constantly in the air and in and out of different countries, so no better people to advise the rest of us.
Julia Campbell, customer service director, worldwide fleet, British Airways
Avoid caffeine and drink plenty of water. I aim for about 1.5 litres per flight.
Use a face spray mist to keep your skin hydrated.
Try to eat a low carb diet. Bread and pasta are extremely bloating while airborne.
Try to get a power nap in during your flight – it helps to give you an energy boost.
While you’re abroad, if you’re on a minus time change, try and stay awake when you get there and go to bed at a semi-normal time so you don’t wake up in the middle of the night. Eat something when you get there so you don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night.
On a plus time change. a two-hour nap when you get there can help you stay awake longer later on so you get to bed at a normal time.
Ann-Marie McPake, Worldwide Customer Service Leader, British Airways
I never drink tea or coffee on board as it has a dehydrating effect on the body. I stick to water, peppermint tea or hot water with lemon, which aids digestion and prevents bloating.
I never eat carbohydrates on board as, again, this causes bloating. I find it easier sticking with protein, e.g. fish or chicken with veggies or salad – light meals that are easier to digest. I normally have some healthy snacks including fruit, nuts and sunflower seeds to eat as a healthy alternative.
Sleep is really important. I would say sleep when you are tired, never sleep longer than three hours following a night flight, and try to remain on local time.
I would also recommend exercise in any form before or after a flight, as this really does help counteract the effects of flying.
Narlep Kaur, worldwide main crew, British Airways
Before a morning flight, I normally have organic porridge with fruit and nuts and green tea. On board the aircraft, I have nuts and water to snack on. Anything bread related will make you bloat. At mealtimes I eat soup with salad on board. Throughout the flight I continue to have herbal teas and lemon water. Definitely no caffeine.
At my destination I apply various oils on pressure points and have a gentle foot massage, which helps me get a good night’s sleep.
Down route, I always go to the gym or classes held at the hotel. This helps with keeping me healthy and nimble. I love walking and jogging, so it doubles up with exploration and adding to my health and of course, getting fresh air.
Justin Flatt, resident doctor, Virgin Atlantic
Make sure your jabs are up to date as there are a number of diseases that can be really nasty, such as hepatitis and typhoid fever. Speak to your GP or local travel clinic about where you’re planning on going and they can advise you on what vaccinations you need.
No matter where I’m going I always have my first aid kit with me. It doesn’t have to be fancy but just having the essentials like antibacterial gel, plasters, painkillers, Imodium, Dioralyte and Savlon will save a lot of hassle on your travels. I always hope I don’t need to use them but I believe it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It’s very tempting to take advantage of those onboard drinks the crew are handing out, but remember to pace yourself and drink plenty of water. I would suggest drinking around a cupful of water each hour on board a long-haul flight to ensure you arrive feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy your trip.