A head full of snot at altitude
May 16, 2012 6:38 PM   Subscribe

In two days I will be taking a series of flights to travel from Australia to Europe for a very much needed month long break. Unfortunately I have a bad cold, secondary infections in my throat and sinuses and generally feel like crap. Given that 27 hours of travel time is not likely to be kind to me, how can I avoid turning up in Edinburgh in even worse shape?

I'm doing all I can to get better, resting, fluids etc but I'm very badly run down and exhausted, a holiday should help with that if getting to it doesn't kill me first.

I'm open to any suggestions. Last time I flew with a cold I ended up with two ear infections, I'd rather that didn't happen this time. I'll take decongestants, sedatives, herbs - whatever. I am taking antibiotics for the secondary infections, they haven't started working yet.

I don't generally sleep well/at all while sitting up unless I take drugs of some kind.

Bonus points given for ideas that won't disgust those around me on the plane.
posted by deadwax to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Menthol. Altoids, Mentos, Fisherman's Friend, cough drops, mint tea, etc.

Bonus points given for ideas that won't disgust those around me on the plane.

Neti Pot!!! Extra fun in an airplane bathroom!

My brother used to get Thai Pineapple Shrimp when he was feeling clogged up; the peppers help clear the pipes. I can't stand peppers, myself, but you may be one of the benighted souls who likes them.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:02 PM on May 16, 2012

EYE DROPS! Otherwise you can enjoy the first three days of your holidays with double conjunctivitis, as I did my sister's wedding. The combination of dry, recycled air + head cold + eyes is not a good one.
posted by Wantok at 7:09 PM on May 16, 2012

Get sudafed--the real kind that you have to get behind the pharmacy counter--and a bottle of mucinex, which will thin the mucous and make it less likely to clog up your ears (if you have stomach problems, take it with an antacid). Benadryl will dry you up and help you sleep.
posted by elizeh at 7:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you can swing it to take the next two days off, you should do that, and spend it sleeping as much as possible.

Also while this won't help you, I beg you for the sake of your fellow flyers to invest in some of those disposable masks that (primarily) Asian people wear when sick, plus hand sanitiser, and use them a lot in the plane.
posted by lollusc at 7:13 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

How long ago did you start the antibiotics? If they're what you need, the difference can be pretty profound in just a couple days. You could get lucky, but I wouldn't count on it.

If not, have you considered calling the airline and asking them to waive the rescheduling fee?
I have heard they are sometimes willing (after all, otherwise you've got a chance of spreading your bug to their other passengers and their flight attendants, and they wouldn't want that, would they?).

Oh if you've got any long layovers you might consider working out access to a place you can really rest, airport terminals aren't fun to be in even when you're healthy.
posted by nat at 7:14 PM on May 16, 2012

What airports are you going through and what are your layover times? You might want to check ahead to see if they have pod hotels where you can lay your head down on an actual bed for an hour or so during your layover if you have time.

Otherwise, try to get a window seats on all flights so you can at least lean against the wall. I can't sleep sitting up either but I have a better chance at some light rest if I can lean against something.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:14 PM on May 16, 2012

Which route are you taking? Is it possible to take fewer flights and more ground/sea travel? Flying with a head cold is just awful. If that's not possible, decongestants, sanitizing hand wipes, lozenges, tissues and a small bag to put your contaminated trash. Think about bringing a little petroleum jelly for your over-wiped and dried out nose.

Take heart, in two days the antibiotics should be making themselves felt. If you haven't started feeling a bit better, talk to your doc before you fly as you might need different meds. Enjoy your R&R!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:17 PM on May 16, 2012

1) drink lots of fluids in flight. Get a collapsible bottle or two, and fill them up once you're through security.
2) a lot of decongestants are also sleep-inducers. Win!
3) Berocca for your awake periods, or at least for when you land
4) As mentioned above, neti pot, but also get some hydrating nose squirts
posted by Runes at 7:18 PM on May 16, 2012

Just a word of warning: Mrs. Deadmessenger flew from Paris to Atlanta with a cold a few years ago and ended up in the emergency room shortly after landing, in agony and bleeding out of an ear from a pressure injury that took the better part of a year to fully heal. If you can postpone this trip, for Deity's sake please do it.

That having been said, pseudoephedrine and some kind of nasal decongestant spray may help.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:27 PM on May 16, 2012

You're open to all suggestions? Try my guaranteed-to-kill-any-cold-or-flu-stone-dead remedy.

Before you go to bed tonight, crush a clove of garlic. Smear some oil (any oil - vegetable, canola, scented massage oil, it doesn't matter) on the instep of the sole of one foot. Put the crushed garlic over the oil, then secure it with bandaids. Put a sock on to be sure the garlic and bandaids stay put. Sleep.

Your bedroom will reek of garlic, but the antioxidants (or whatever good stuff is in garlic) soak through the thin skin and kickstart your immune system to fight the bug. The oil prevents your skin from getting burned from the intensity of the garlic.

I'm not into homeopathy or any of that happy claptrap, but I swear by my garlic cure.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:28 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

You need psuedoephidrine. (Old formula codral, sudafed etc) Most pharmacists are sympathetic to the flying situation, especially airport pharmacists.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:29 PM on May 16, 2012

I get vertigo - feels like the plane is doing barrel rolls - if I fly without preparation. That prep is real sudafed, an antihistamine, one prescription dose of ibuprofen (800mg) an hour before the flight (do it when they are getting ready to call First Class/Preboarding) and then religious normal doses every 4 hours until at least 12 hours after travel is complete.

During takeoff and landing, if you feel any pressure in your ears, get out your half-full water bottle, suck it as empty of air as possible, and then hold the opening in your mouth so that it's sucking back. This is gentler than pinching your nose and blowing, which runs a 50/50 chance of making your ears worse.

I got sick on a flight to Shanghai for a 10-day work trip, ran out of all my supplies while I was there (goddamn I was sick, my Chinese office manager very nearly strong-armed me to the doctor), could not properly prep on my way home, and ruptured my eardrum while descending into Narita when I still had flights to LA and Dallas left to go. I super lucked out - it scabbed over and basically made a bandage over my eardrum until it healed - but I do not recommend it.

I prefer the Sudafed, but second best choice is Afrin nasal spray as it tends to really get up in your sinuses and do its business.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:03 PM on May 16, 2012

I did something like this recently in the aftermath of a cold and sinusitus (Australia to Heathrow via Singapore). I can suggest a number of strategies...

1) Go to bed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Seriously, just take sick leave or the loss in pay. Just sleep non-stop for the next few days. This - together with taking your antibiotics - is the absolute best thing you can do.

2) Once you get to the flying stage (if you have gone to bed and slept for the previous few days, you will be in much better shape by this point) you need to do whatever you need to do to ensure that your sinuses are clear. Otherwise, you'll have hard-core sinusitus and/or ear infections/ bronchitis before you're done. My strategy was to take night time codral (the old school type with the psuedoephidrine) at the recommended intervals. Keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of tea on the flight (the steam will make you feel better).

3) As soon as you get to your destination, go to bed again. Give yourself a couple of days to shore up your reserves.

Good luck :)
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 9:06 PM on May 16, 2012

Codral original, or a similar preparation that has pseudoephedrine in it (not the stuff on the shelf, the one behind the counter and even then not all pharmacies stock it). You won't be better, but you'll feel better. Get the day/night version and take the night version, which will help you sleep on the plane.
posted by dg at 9:18 PM on May 16, 2012

Edinburgh is, uh, brisk, and the winds can be cutting. Remember to have plenty of very wind-proof layers for when you get off the plane, and don't skimp on comfortable transport from the airport to your hotel (i.e. don't bother with the bus).

Boots and Superdrug are the main OTC drug chains. Coffee shops in Edinburgh are mostly imports and in remarkably drafty locations (all the Starbucks branches I can think of there are freezing)- you're better off going to a pub and ordering coffee/drinks there, as they're much cosier. Holing up in a succession of pubs would be an awesome way to spend an Edinburgh vacation.

If you're willing to post whereabouts in Edinburgh you'll be staying, I can offer more specific advice about care/warm places.

tl;dr Wrap up warm, dearie.
posted by pickingupsticks at 12:19 PM on May 17, 2012

Also, to help during takeoffs and especially landings - Dristan (or any other nasal decongestant spray).
posted by BubbleWrap at 6:13 AM on May 19, 2012

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