Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
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Can I Protect Myself From Viruses on Long Flights?

Thursday, 03 Jun 2010 12:12 PM


Question: Several times in the past I have come down with sinus and chest infections immediately following long flights. Do you have any recommendations for prevention?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Your best defense is a seat away from a neighbor’s sneezes. Respiratory infections are spread through the air. When we are trapped on a plane for 11 hours, we are in a closed recirculation environment and are potential victims for respiratory viruses and bacteria that find their way into our sinuses, throat, ears, and lungs.

Masks are effective only when placed on the person with active infection.

If you are prone to allergies or chronic congestion, try to clear up your congestion before you fly. Sudafed and topical decongestants can be effective deterrents to these micro-invaders. I give my patients this analogy: Does a field of seed germinate better on a tilled, moisture-laden fertile field or on a dry, untilled surface? Likewise for these invaders, there is no easy entry through tissues that are neither inflamed nor congested.

Of course, smokers are at increased risk, as well as those with weakened immunity. Keep vaccinations up-to-date. If you are diabetic or take immune suppressants, consult your doctor for additional tips on optimizing your defense against respiratory infections.

There are a number of advertised products promoting prevention of the common cold that lack sufficient controlled evidence of effectiveness, except for the possible exception of vitamin C. So consumer beware!



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