Common Sense Health: Go Ahead and Catch the Travel Bug 

William Shakespeare wrote, “In the night, imagining some fear, how easy is a bush supposed a bear!” For many families having lost loved ones to the coronavirus, this has been a devastating year. The death numbers are broadcast relentlessly. Small wonder people have become paranoid about travelling. But does this anxiety make sense?

Normally airports are chaotic and unpleasant. Joyless crowds stand toe-to-toe in long lineups through insufferable screenings and baggage checks, only to be herded like sheep onto cramped planes.

But now could be the best time to travel. Airports are not crowded and much cleaner. Some flights leave the middle seat empty – a welcome move.

Skeptics worry about contact with the coronavirus while seated for hours breathing shared air on flights. It’s understandable given the enclosed space and large numbers of strangers. But the air inside an airplane is cleaner than you think.

Most commercial aircraft use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, and the air flows in ways similar to an operating room, in one direction with little crossover of circulation patterns. Cabin air is constantly refreshed, with about 60% from the outside and 40% passing through HEPA filters that block 99.97% of airborne particles over 0.3 micron in size. Research by NASA notes that HEPA filters are exceptionally efficient – almost 100% at 0.01 micron – at capturing ultrafine particles, including the very small globs carrying SARS-CoV-2 in exhaled air.

Even with this filtration, every three minutes, on average, cabin air is completely changed. That’s 20 times every hour compared to 12 times in office buildings. Your airplane ride is far safer than a bus or subway journey!

It is not the air, but certain surfaces on planes where germs thrive – for instance, seatback magazines, pulldown tables and headrests where people put their hands as they walk the aisle. Another problem is the washroom after passengers fail to wash their hands. Airlines are aware of these hazards and have increased use of disinfectants.

So, go ahead and catch the travel bug. Do a more informed assessment of the health risks and benefits of travel. Travel can ease stress, a major source of illness.  It gets you up and moving.  Travel often involves socializing and making new friends, also known to boost positive health outcomes. Good food choices while traveling, combined with exercise, can score a win-win. Don’t forget the importance of rest.  Choose a destination where you can enjoy some downtime.

Finally, far too late, top medical authorities are acknowledging the role of specific supplements. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said, “If you are deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection. I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself, taking vitamin D supplements.” He went on to add that vitamin C is a “good antioxidant” and recommended high doses. Dr. Fauci might have better brought home the point. These two vitamins protect us, and we should be ringing far louder alerts for everyone to supplement their intake. Good advice at any point, but especially as you prepare to travel, get your immune system in top shape.

This viral pandemic has been so prolonged and so intensely covered by the media, that it’s small wonder travellers are seeing bears.

Everyday lifestyle diseases such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes cause more thousands of deaths than the coronavirus.

Life has its hazards, even getting up in the morning. But plane travel is one of the safest forms of transportation. We must not become so paranoid that we become afraid of our own shadow.

Samuel Johnson, the historian, once remarked, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Whether London or anywhere else, don’t let yourself succumb.  Plan your next trip.

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