After a five week trip to the U.S., where we slept in 14 different places, we’ve arrived back home! During our stateside trip we did the west coast parent tour, stayed a week in Taos with the kids, took a side trip to Sedona with my mom, conducted business at Stanford University (Thom gave a talk), and spent ten days in Michigan where we made a side weekend trip up to Frankfort. Whew!
A few days after arriving in the U.S. I became sick, which really ticked me off! How could I get sick in the sanitary, clean U.S. after being completely healthy a whole year in Africa, where I was supposedly exposed to all sorts of diseases, germs, vermin and unhygienic situations?
Well, maybe all of the research about how air travel makes you sick is true. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Air travelers suffer higher rates of disease infection, research has shown. One study pegged the increased risk for catching a cold as high as 20%.” Hmmmm…I wonder if I got sick breathing recirculated air on multiple 12-hour long-haul flights while sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with at least 400 people sharing nine bathrooms? Or, was it the shuffling through three airports and being funneled with thousands of other holiday travelers through six security stations, all touching, coughing and sneezing on the same computer and jewelry trays?
Being stuck on the ground in an airplane with non-circulating air is particularly hard on one’s immune system. Think of yourself as being in the middle of a petri dish growing ever crowded with multiplying germs whenever you’re boarding, delayed (due to weather/traffic/mechanical issues), or on a stopover (think of the SAA Dulles-Jo’burg flight with stopover in Dakar; you’re never allowed to get off the plane, you just have to sit there for an hour or two while they refuel and board new passengers). “One well-known study in 1979 found that when a plane sat three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, 72% of the 54 people on board got sick within two days. The flu strain they had was traced to one passenger.” (source: Wall Street Journal) Wow! A single sick passenger causing almost three-quarters of their fellow travelers to get sick.
Guess I should be grateful for my normally strong immune system as this Christmas trip is one of the first times I got sick after flying. What made this trip particularly grueling is that we had not one but two extreme long-haul (12 hours) flights in addition to the two-hour originating flight from Lusaka to Johannesburg, accompanied by two long layovers in crowded airports (6 hours in Jo’burg and 8 hours in London), with multiple security checks at each airport.
Also, I think not sleeping during the 44-hour
ordeal trip weakened my immune system and allowed me to fall prey to the germy environment. Three days after our arriving in the U.S. I came down with a bad cold that developed a into a throat infection entailing two rounds of antibiotics and is just clearing up now. Thom managed to stay healthy on the outgoing flights but picked up a case of the flu coming back, resulting in a 102 degree temperature and him being knocked-out flat on his back yesterday.
So, as if there wasn’t already enough to worry about when flying (terrorists, wind shears, food poisoning, chatty seatmates) now we have to think about germs. To help you remain healthy on your next long-haul flight, I found this illustration below, which tells you all of the ways you can
infect yourself keep yourself from getting sick.
So, now that we’re done traveling for a while we’re both recuperating and on the mend. After the cold of Michigan it’s nice to lay out in the sun and let our bodies turn the rays into immune-boosting Vitamin D. I took lots of photos from our trip and have lots of information to share, which I’ll start doing in the next few days.
Until then, Happy New Year!