The Traveler's Journal  
Travel Articles by David Bear
Versions of these articles and columns have appeared in newspapers around the county. Please enjoy them for your own use, but if you want to reproduce or publish them in any form, please let us know first by emailing us



Unfortunately, travel schedules seldom make allowance for the common cold that is all too common this time of year, and flying with the flu is for the birds. Here's a doctor's bag full of simple remedies for travelers who find themselves taking clogged head and runny nose to the airport. 

The main trick to traveling with a cold is to keep your nasal passages open. The dry atmosphere on an airplane makes it harder for them to drain properly. So if you have a stuffy nose, take a decongestant a half hour before you actually get on the plane, and periodically during long flights . Many doctors recommend pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, which is sold over the counter as Sudafed.

Many decongestants also pro vide an antihistamine, which can leave you feeling drowsy. That is normally a disadvantage, but it may not be so bad if you're facing a long flight.

Nasal drops and sprays also work well for quick cures. Over-the-counter remedies such as Afrin and Neo-Synephrine 12-Hour, whose active ingredient is Oxymetazoline, are good choices. 

For headaches and fever, acetaminophens like Tylenol are usually best, since they're less likely to irritate the stomach, but common aspirin is also a good option. I

f you have a dry cough, suppressants such as dextromethorphan (Dixoral or Benylin) work well, while expectorants such as guaifensin (Robitussin or Scottussin) are the choice if you're coughing up phlegm.

But avoid medicines that claim to combine the two approaches to controlling coughs. 

If your ears clog while flying, don't chew gum, which will only dry your throat. Sucking on a lifesaver or throat lozenge will work much better, especially if they contain Benzocaine. 

The usual tactic for clearing your ears is to hold your nose, swallow and gently force air into your Eustachian tube.

But if that doesn't work and you're in real pain, here's a simple, but surprisingly effective cure. Ask the cabin attendant for a cup, paper napkin and a little warm water. Put the napkin and water in the cup, and place it over the clogged ear. While holding a cup over your ear may not do much for your image, the damp warmth may be exactly what the doctor ordered for relieving the pain.

A hot, moist towel held over the forehead can also ease the pressure of sinusitis and soothe itchy eyes.  Daubing a bit of Vaseline inside each nostril will help to keep nasal membranes moist and help clear nasal passages. Lip balm may also prove handy.

Some travelers regularly apply coats of face cream during the flight to avoid dry skin.  In any case, be sure to take in plenty of fluids - ideally water and fruit juices - during the flight to counteract the dry cabin atmosphere.

And avoid alcohol. The common wisdom is that one drink in the air will have the same effect as three on the ground, but even more important, alcohol tends to swell the sinus passages, making the cold symptoms even worse.

On the other hand, warm drinks will both soothe the throat and sinus. Coffee or tea will do, but a little chicken soup would be best. 

ravel stress is another factor that can make a bad cold even worse. Stress is a normal part of life. There's no escaping it, but you can control its effects on you. This is especially important when traveling. Excess stress can easily ruin an otherwise enjoyable trip. 

Travel, because it changes one's regular routines, is by its very nature stressful. (In fact, on a psychological scale used to rank the stress caused by various life events, travel ranks just above holiday celebrations.) 

One form of travel stress manifests itself as pre-trip anxiety. If you tend to worry about missing a plane, you might try leaving home a little earlier. You can relax with a cup of coffee and newspaper at the airport as easily as at home, while a last-minute dash to catch a plane may leave a cold-hampered traveler breathless. 

Other travel stresses result from trying to overdo it. Once there, many travelers want to see and do it all, only to find themselves getting sick. Try to do it all and you may wind up enjoying nothing. Budget your time according to your priorities, be they business or pleasure. 

On extended journeys, remember that the health risks may be the highest during the trip's third week. That's when changes in environment, diet, hygiene, and sleep patterns can catch up with you.

Finally, make sure to enjoy sufficient sleep, fluids, food and exercise. If ignored, a shortage of any can provoke trip-ruining problems. 


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