Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Holiday Cold

It's happened to most of us.

Just as we're closing up shop at the office, packing the last of our essentials in our suitcases, and wrapping those final presents, that dull pain starts creeping into our heads, our thoats feel a little scratchy and our noses just won't stop running. I call it the Holiday Cold. It's what happens when all the stress of the season--final work projects, Christmas shopping, holiday parties--finally sets in just as we are ready to enjoy the holiday.

My flight back home to Denver is tomorrow afternoon, and wouldn't you know it, my head has been pounding all day and my nose is getting more stuffed by the minute. It doesn't help that I will soon be wandering through a crowded airport where I will eventually board a packed plane filled with germy travelers. It's a fact that planes can actually make people sick, so if a cold is lingering before you fly, chances are it will be a full blown illness when you arrive at your destination.

People who travel a lot have higher rates of infection, with one study saying there is an increased risk as high as 20%. There is a common belief that recirculated air is the main cause, but illnesses are more likely to spread when air circulation is shut off. So when people are boarding or exiting the plane is actually when they are most prone to getting sick. Since the air in planes is very dry, it is a prime environment to spread disease, since viruses tend to thrive in low-humidity. High altitude can also make people tired, and fatigue makes them susceptible to colds. With all these factors working against you, it seems inevitable that you will catch some type of cold, whether mild or severe. So how do you avoid the Holiday Cold and actually enjoy your time with the family?

Follow a couple simple precautions, and you should be able to stave off that pesky cough.

credit: health.com
First, hydrate, because drinking water and keeping nasal passages open and moist can help reduce the risk of a cold. Second, keep your hands clean. Keep sanitizer nearby and squeeze a bit on your hands after you come in contact with any surface that could be contaminated with germs--tray tables, seat pockets, etc. Third, open your air vent so that the stream of air passes right in front of your face, this will help direct airborne germs away from you. Fourth, if you end up sitting next to someone who is sick, request to change seats. With this holiday season expected to be super busy, and most planes filled to capacity, this might not be possible, but it's worth a shot for your health's sake. Finally, avoid pillows and blankets, since this is a veritable breeding ground for germs.
For me, I always carry a couple packets of Emergen-C in my bag. I down one with a full glass of water before entering the airport, and then take another while in flight. Some people are skeptical about whether it actually helps you fight a cold, and, trust me, I'm wary of that, too. However, I do believe that it can boost your immune system to help fight off the possibility of a cold. I also take a multivitamin and plenty of zinc before traveling. Water and tea are always my beverages of choice, and I try my best to not get too stressed, since that can lower your defenses even more.

credit: lindtusa.com
The Holiday Cold can be a downer, especially if it hits when you're traveling. Taking the proper steps can keep you healthy and happy this holiday season. And you do happen to catch a little bug, remember that this is the time of year for giving, and your family and friends will certainly come with the rescue with hot chicken soup, warm cocoa and lots of soft blankets. Who wouldn't love that?

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