Air travel may be the single most greatest exposure to sickness the average person willingly puts themselves through. I consider it a necesary risk for exploring the world. I go to great extents to prevent pre-travel sickness but once you’re on the move there are too many factors to reasonably control. This was the case in my most recent travel to Peru.
I do have what some people might consider a pretty extreme pre-flight anti-germ regiment. It starts about a week before fly-time. During that week I work from home, limit my exposure to people in general -especially sick people. I take a battery of daily vitamins, wash my hands more than usual as well as stay on top of the allergy pills and sprays I take every day year-round. Those consist of antihistamine pills, steroid nasal sprays, supplemental antihistamine sprays as well as sinus rinses. I once read an article that proposed that a majority of sickness first has to incubate in your sinuses. Logically, if you keep your sinuses flushed and healthy you’re less likely to get sick or have allergy problems. Sounds reasonable to me and for the most part has worked well. In the 2 years I’ve been following this mantra I’ve only gotten one cold – this week.
Once you’re on-board there’s not much you can do; you’re at the mercy of your fellow passenger’s health. The air, claimed to be filtered, is recycled; so you’re sharing germs with everyone no matter what class of service. I’ve been lucky, in all my travels, I’ve never gotten sick during the trip itself. It’s as if my body goes into overdrive to do it’s best to fight off all infection. Maybe it knows the amount of time and money I’ve spent on the trip and fights extra hard to keep me healthy and enjoying my time away. After travel is complete I really don’t care. Usually I’m sleep deprived, have been eating a horrible, fatty diet and uncaring if I miss a few days of work (as was the case with this last trip/week).
Post travel this trip, to compound my germ-fear, along with a cough/cold, fever and achy-ness -which started about 2 days after we flew home, I also had a gnarly bug bite received while hiking around Machu Picchu. Those symptoms coincided with the minimum incubation period for malaria (I looked it up). Faced with some of the symptoms I called the travel clinic who vaccinated me (and assured me that I wasn’t in a malaria hot-zone). I assumed they would put me at ease, tell me to wait a few more days/weeks and that everything would be just fine. Instead, they sternly informed me that the next call I made would be to my primary care physician to have him look at my unhealed bug bite and check my other symptoms. My stress levels increased to pre-flight levels.
After a quick examination and hearing out my symptoms, the doctor gave me the assurance I was looking for. The bite, while not healed was not unusual. This was the first time I’d be bitten by this particular type of bug (being my first exposure to South American insects) and it would take my body a few extra days to heal. The cold symptoms were just that: a cold. Two days since that doctors visit (and 2 days laying on the couch) and I’m almost back to normal and already planning my next trip.
Hawaii here we come!