How can I minimize my contagiousness as I travel while sick?
February 22, 2013 7:58 AM   Subscribe

I woke up with a stuffy, sneezey nose this morning. I fly across the country in four days to a conference I can't afford to miss. Is there anything I can do now to minimize the likelihood of making everyone else sick on my plane and at my conference?

I'm hoping this is just a cold -- I did get the flu shot months ago and I don't feel bad beyond the congestion -- but there's a lot of nasty stuff going around, and the idea of being any kind of disease vector on an airplane makes me cringe.
posted by croutonsupafreak to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: First of all, dope up with some Nyquil or whatever so you can sleep on the plane and you're not gooey and oozing everywhere.

You can stop at CVS and pick up a face mask.

Use lots of hand santizer and use the barf bag to toss your snot rags.

When checking in, tell the ramp agent you have a cold and don't want to be contageous. If there's a row on the plane that's open, he or she may move you so you can be in your own disease zone.

That's about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:02 AM on February 22, 2013

Best answer: Take some Cold-Eeze or other zinc-based cold remedy. They do have some effect.
posted by kindall at 8:04 AM on February 22, 2013

Response by poster: So there's no magic anti-contagion pill/shot/something I can get from my doctor? Sigh.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:06 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can wear a face mask. At many doctor's offices there's a sign asking you to put on a mask in the waiting room if you are coughing and sneezing. I suspect no one is suggesting it because they think it's overkill, or something. As someone who was once severely immunosuppressed, I think it would be really nice of you to wear the mask.
posted by telegraph at 8:09 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Or Ruthless Bunny suggested it and I am too groggy to have noticed! Well, I second the face mask suggestion heartily.
posted by telegraph at 8:09 AM on February 22, 2013

Best answer: Flying with a cold is not fun. Get on some meds ASAP because the air pressure change from takeoff and landing will respectively slightly alleviate and then massively emphasize any remaining stuffiness or runniness compared to when you board. You may not need tissues when the descent starts, but you'll be desperate for them before you deplane.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:12 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If it's a cold, 12 hour Sudafed will work to make your nose less runny & sneezy, which I can only imagine will make you marginally less contagious. But yeah- hand sanitizer and wear a face mask on the airplane.
posted by lyra4 at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2013

If it's the cold and not the flu, then no.

If it is the flu, Tamaflu might be the way to go.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

The face mask is the magic anti-contagion pill/shot/something.
posted by aniola at 8:13 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, in 4 days, you'll be over the juicy part of your cold, and onto the crusty part.

So at that point you won't be so contagious.

In Korea, they were so grossed out by a cold/pollution reaction that I was having that shopkeepers gave me a shot of ginsing something. Go to an Asian store (or H-Mart) and get some of that shit. It worked a treat!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:16 AM on February 22, 2013

My boyfriend used to get a Z-Pak prescribed for him when he felt something like this coming on. It's a high-dose antibiotic that you take for just a couple of days. Caveat: his boss would write him a prescription. I have no idea if going to a regular doctor and asking for this would work.
posted by jabes at 8:20 AM on February 22, 2013

Z-Pak is a TERRIBLE idea. Antibiotics work on bacterial infections, colds and flus are viruses/virii and won't react at all.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:22 AM on February 22, 2013 [16 favorites]

I've found that maxing out on Airborne does in my colds very quickly.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:24 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Z-Pak is a TERRIBLE idea. Antibiotics work on bacterial infections, colds and flus are viruses/virii and won't react at all.

Seconding this.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:27 AM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Your question was "how can I not infect others", and I presume not going is not an option. The big vectors are handshaking and sneezing, so strategically plan the handshaking. You can just pause as you offer your hand during the handshake ritual, say you have a cold, and roll with it; that way it's no big thing and it shows consideration. Use sanitizer religiously after your fingers contact yourself or your belongings, and wash your hands during breaks.

Close contact with others for an extended period may be the main problem because of airborne droplets. The people on the plane will probably end up getting exposed, unfortunately, and if you sit away from others during presentations and not attend the banquet, that will help a lot.
posted by crapmatic at 8:29 AM on February 22, 2013

Okay okay I take back the Z-Pak recommendation! I'm guessing he got those prescribed for sinus infections or something, which around my house are the equivalent of the common cold. Anyway they work great if you've got a sinus infection.
posted by jabes at 8:32 AM on February 22, 2013

Are you headed to HIMSS? Every time I've been to HIMSS I've gotten sick because so many of the exhibits are interactive. When 30,000 people touch the same stuff germs spread. (And it's healthcare people, we're fastidious hand washers.)

I suggest that you take a lot of precautions at the convention center itself not just on the plane. Hand wash whenever possible / hand sanitizer when there's not an opportunity for a full wash. Resist shaking hands if possible.
posted by 26.2 at 8:34 AM on February 22, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, folks. About to head to Walgreens to pick up zinc-based cold meds, tissues, a mask, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and Nyquil, and before my flight I'll cross the state border to Washington where over-the-counter real Sudafed is still legal.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:36 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: 26.2: No, not HIMSS, NICAR.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:38 AM on February 22, 2013

Best answer: Get multiple masks. After awhile, they start to get kinda nasty from accumulated nose bilge, and you'll want to swap it out.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:39 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Avoid touching your face, and be sure to wash your hands frequently. If you don't transfer the droplets to your hands in the first place, handshaking et al won't be such a big vector for infection.
posted by Andrhia at 9:26 AM on February 22, 2013

I'd like to suggest techniques to get rid of a cold ASAP. This tends to work for me - and I can usually get rid of the worst part of a cold in 3-4 days.

Rest. Now.

If at all possible, stay home and take multiple naps today and tomorrow. If you need to work, on, say, a presentation, do so in small time increments and never get to the point where your head hurts. (Work for 30-45 minutes then rest/nap).

I find that's the best way to get rid of the cold quickly: taking two days where rest is the priority. Also, drink lots and fluids and - guess what, science has proven that chicken soup does boost your immune system (and no, I'm not a hippie). Take medication only to manage symptom, but don't "dry out" completely your body's evacuation system (mucus). Take lots of vitamin C and, if you have it on hand, an iron supplement (all meant to boost your immune system). And, why not throw echinacea in there, since the verdict is still pending as to wether or not it actually helps.

Drinks lots of hot tea/liquid to keep your throat humid (and limit the spread of the rash that makes one's throat sore).

Then, of course, on day of travel, if the cold is still going strong, follow every one's advice here.
posted by Milau at 9:32 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, if you take Sudafed, drink a huge amount of water. Milau is right that you don't want to get dried out, that will make it take longer to get healthy. But for while you're on the plane or trying to sleep, it works wonders.
posted by lyra4 at 4:05 PM on February 22, 2013

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