Inspired to write this because I spent part of August fighting off a cold. August has probably been one of my busier flying months, going in all directions. I started off the month in Bali, ended the month in Mauritius. In between I had three US flights (New York x2 San Francisco x1), and two European flights (Rome and London). I managed to make the most of my layovers, but that meant doing nothing but sleep at home. Which also meant having zero energy to write up a blog post.
If you google how to prevent a cold, the first thing you’ll find is the importance of washing your hands. And trust me, as a flight attendant I wash my hands religiously. Despite how glamorous many people think my job is, it is far from glamorous!
Despite my best efforts to avoid getting sick, it’s a hard thing to avoid forever! After awhile, it’s not about preventing a cold, it’s how to hold it off and get better before it can get worse.
Here are four things I try and do on a daily basis to prevent getting sick, but also four things I make a priority once I start feeling the symptoms of a cold coming on.
1) Listen to your body. Travelling can be exhausting on the body. You’re jumping from time zone to time zone, and may be missing out on sleep. You’re spending days or nights on planes, trains, and various other forms of transportation, and may not get a good sleep. You’re excited to be in a new destination, and end up so busy you barely sleep. In this job, I have learned that if I am tired, I need to listen to my body and catch up on my sleep, otherwise I end up sick. I’ve also learned to tell the difference between feeling tired and feeling exhausted. When I can barely keep my eyes open, that’s when I know it’s time to hit the sheets and have a good snooze.
2) Find ways to de-stress. Stress is another thing that is hard on the body, and I’m more likely to get sick if I’m stressed out. It’s related to sleep as well, because I’m less likely to have a good sleep if I’m worried about something. Travelling is fun and amazing, but sometimes it can be stressful as well. There’s a lot of planning to do. You might get lost in a new city. You might not understand the language. Different things stress different people. It’s important to find ways to take that weight off your shoulders, even if it’s just for a moment. For me, sometimes that’s grabbing a cup of tea and settling in to watch a movie. Other times it’s grabbing a drink with friends and dancing the night away. And exercise, although not my favourite thing in the world, is a great way to let go of stress.
3) Eat healthy. It’s sometimes hard to eat properly when you are travelling. In Thailand, we were so scared of trying new food the first few days that we lived off crackers from 7-Eleven. Not the healthiest decision I’ve made. And now, it’s hard because my time is split between being up in the sky, at home, or in another city, and I’m often too tired to cook or go grocery shopping, I end up eating breakfast-type foods at three different times in the same day, I snack instead of ever eating a proper meal, and so on. Although I prefer to get my vitamins from food itself, I am currently taking a multi vitamin because eating well with this job is still a daily struggle. I am about to go home for twenty days and the fact that I’ll be able to eat healthy meals at normal times is exciting!
4) Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Water is good for the body! It’s easy to become dehydrated while travelling. Especially considering that in some locations, you can’t drink the tap water. I always try and carry a bottle of water with me when I’m on layovers, and I keep a bottle of water filled besides my bed at all times. I’m also a huge fan of hot water with lemon! It’s also very important to drink water when flying! People forget to stay hydrated. I highly suggest buying a big bottle of water at the airport once you get through security. Having your own bottle of water at your seat means you can drink whenever you want. I’m always surprised at how few people do this. Or, even a reusable bottle that you can get refilled with water rather than having to ask for ten cups of water.
I had let myself get run down and stressed out at the beginning of the month, which resulted in getting sick. By making these four things a priority when I started to get sick, I was able to prevent my cold from getting worse, and shortened the amount of time I was sick. You may have noticed that I never mentioned any medication. Due to the nature of my job, a lot of the medications for colds we aren’t allowed as it can increase sleepiness. I’ve also always believed in natural remedies and making healthy choices to get better when it comes to the common cold. I have found that the #1 most important thing for me to do once I start getting sick is to sleep as much as possible. Sleep, and a healthy lifestyle, is my medication!