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Gargulinski: All aboard for a dose of toxins, germs

Nothing beats returning from a summer vacation with plenty of souvenirs – except when one of them is a massive illness.

In my first flight in about two years, I found plane travel has not only gotten worse with its stringent, take-off-your-shoes security and lack of free 9,000-calorie meals, but also the recycled air has gotten dirtier.

Perhaps they are cutting costs by doing away with effective air filters.

Airplanes have become high-speed, high-altitude infirmaries, but with only one bathroom. Even some of the seat compartments had no barf bags, something I know because I use them as drawing paper.

I returned from my jaunt to Michigan and New York City with a couple of new dresses, beach shorts from Coney Island and something that felt like a fever of 103.

I’m not the only one who has gotten ill following a flight. It happens every time my friend Kate’s daughter flies in from Colorado. Kate knows to meet her at the airport with a pot of chicken soup.

My dad got off his plane to Michigan from California with a box of seashells and pneumonia.

Another pal used to fly all across the nation in a salesman job. He brags he was on 592 flights. He’ll quietly add that it left with him 592 illnesses and a good reason to quit the business.

He got sick of being sick in weird places such as Kalamazoo, Mich.

While people disembark planes with colds, flu, frog ashtrays from Puerto Rico and a head that feels stuffed with attic insulation, there are even scarier illnesses to be had.

According to Air Travel Health News Web site, with writings by Dianna Fairechild, “skypoxia” gives travelers the added bonus of illness from the toxins one can encounter aboard.

These include jet fuel, hydraulic fluid and airline coffee.

Fairechild writes there is “no quick fix for all the symptoms of jet lag because of all the different causes – shifts in time, alterations in magnetic fields, modifications in climate and diversities in cultures. Flying in commercial jets, we’re deprived of air and humidity while exposed to recycled germs and chemicals, radiation, pesticides and noise.”

At least it explains why the meals are no longer free; not many people could keep them down after all the exposure to germs and toxins. It also explains the missing barf bags.

Instead of frequent flyer miles, airlines should offer frequent doctor visits or at least coupons good at airport pharmacies.

Since air travel seems to be getting worse, we should come up with solutions to combat the illnesses.

The friends I stayed with in Brooklyn swear by Airborne. Wendy popped two to kill off the sneezing with which I tried to infect her, while her husband used one to kick out the sore throat I brought.

For me, TheraFlu was a godsend. Until it stopped working.

Perhaps preventing the illness in the first place is the best route to take.

If avoiding air travel is not an option, we could always don surgical masks when we fly, although they may get stuck with the gum we have to chew to pop our ears.

Keeping ourselves healthy with a proper diet and nutrition and flying only when our immune system is bulked up is another way to go.

But the best option came from one of my co-workers, as he watched me struggle for the computer keyboard over piles of Echinacea, V8 and chewable vitamin C. “I know what would help next time you’re on a plane,” he said. “Flying with the windows open.”

Contact Ryn Gargulinski at 573-4687 or at rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

Day of the Dead: Crime reporter Ryn Gargulinski chronicles unnatural deaths around Tucson.

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