Updated: Mar 21, 2020
With March break around the corner and everyone in coronavirus hysteria, many families are questioning whether or not to keep their prebooked vacations or be on the safe side and cancel. At least 12 US states have declared states of emergency, Italy is in complete lockdown and people around the globe are stocking up on supplies as if the apocalypse is coming. Statistics are changing daily and scientists are tirelessly working toward understanding the novel coronavirus and aggressively researching different ways to effectively treat it.
Even though with most infections you are likely to be the most contagious when you show symptoms, it is still possible to be contagious before exhibiting any symptoms at all. You have to assume that around this time of year, with cold and flu season still very much present, that at least one person you come into contact with, whether it be at the airport, on the airplane or in another city, will likely be carrying some sort of contagion. Statistically, as I write this article it is still unlikely that you will come into contact with someone who has been exposed to the novel coronavirus, but with data changing daily that might not be the case next week.
My biggest concern with travelling during this coronavirus madness is flights. Air circulation is stagnant (to say the least) on an airplane and all it takes it one person to cough, sneeze or wipe their nose without cleaning their hands properly afterwards to spread their germs to nearby travellers. With coronavirus specifically, transmission can occur within 6 feet of an infected person who coughs or sneezes.
So how can you protect yourself while travelling?
1. Start taking your supplements! Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, echinacea and elderberry have all been well studied to have antiviral and immunomodulating properties. In fact, there is a lot of interesting evidence about the use of high dose vitamin C in the treatment of CoV-19 specifically. Supplements should be professional grade and recommended by a licensed Naturopathic Doctor (shameless self promotion!) but if you’re in a bind, go to your local health food store and find a high quality product (not Jamison, Life Brand or Kirkland - sorry) and take as directed on the label.
2. Irrigate your nose: I know it’s not the most appealing thing to do but using a netty pot or saline mist (just discovered this for my kids!!) can be extremely effective for preventing infection. Typically the nose is the port of entry for respiratory pathogens; they colonize in the nasopharyngeal cavity and enter the respiratory tract causing infection. Nasal irrigation with saline can kill respiratory pathogens before colonization and infection occurs. I would definitely do this in the days leading up to your travel, immediately after the flight (in the airport washroom perhaps?) and during the course of your vacation. You have nothing to lose besides a few minutes (or seconds if you’re using that mist!).
3. Practice good hygiene I find it hard to believe that people need to be reminded to wash their hands regularly as a part of basic disease Infection control. But if you needed reminding, I am here to remind you. Wash your hands regularly! A 2019 study by the American Society for Microbiology determined that using warm water and soap to wash your hands is more effective than applying a dab of hand sanitizer. With that being said, if a washroom sink is inaccessible, hand sanitizer comes in close second. I definitely suggest carrying some hand sanitizer in your travel bag and if you do use it, be conscious of applying it thoroughly. In order for hand sanitizer to be effective, it must contain at least 60% alcohol and while I normally opt for alcohol-free hand sanitizer options, this year I suggest carrying a hand sanitizer with an alcohol base between 60%-95%.
4. If you or one of your family members is sick, wear a mask Honestly, they really aren’t effective at protecting you from getting sick but they can be effective at preventing you from passing your cold to others. With so many unknowns about Covid-19 and everyone being so hyper vigilant right now, wearing a mask is a simple way of showing consideration to others. There is nothing worse than being on a flight and sitting beside the sick passenger who generously infects you with his cold (I speak from personal experience - imagine being 5 months pregnant in Europe and sooo sick; my seat neighbour was nice and all but I really didn’t appreciate catching his cold). Treat others the way you want to be treated. Consider a mask (if you can find one)
5. My secret weapon for a flight: colloidal silver Colloidal silver is a suspension of pure metallic silver in water and has strong antiviral properties. It works by interfering with the enzyme that allows a virus to utilize oxygen, essentially suffocating and killing it. I don’t recommend taking colloidal silver internally but always suggest carrying a colloidal silver spray to spray on airplane seats, seat handles, trays or ANYTHING you might come into contact with. According to the CDC, when it comes to the novel coronavirus, it is not believed to spread through contact with infected surfaces, however, this form of transmission is still considered a possibility. Experts say Cov-19 can live up to 72 hours on hard surfaces like bus, train or plane handrails, and can survive for less time than that on softer surfaces like clothing. Since other pathogens can be spread through contact with infected surfaces, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and spray away! I also recommend spraying colloidal silver on your own clothing when you get on the plane and once you get off and leave the airport - you can never be too safe.
At the end of the day, you can’t stop your entire life because of irrational panic and fear. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to care for your immune system, practice good hygiene and be mindful of those around you. For more tips on how to protect yourself during cold and flu season click here. If you are interested in Naturopathic support and live in Vaughan, Ontario, please reach out! I love working with families and offer home visits. Learn more here.
Happy March Break!!
Dr. Shelly Ordon, N.D.