I felt a chill shortly following our presentation of the gifts and supplies we had brought
from the U.S. for students at St. Peter Claver Primary School in Soweto. Then a general feeling of weakness throughout my body that forced me to grab the nearest seat. I felt drained.
I took an aspirin that I got from Sandra, one of my traveling partners, and waited for it to take effect. All I wanted to do was go back to bed, pull the sheet over my head and sleep. But our flight back to the States was leaving in less than 7 hours.
Up until lunch time, I still had no idea what was wrong – just that I felt lousy. And a few hours later when we were having lunch with the teachers, Judith our other traveling buddy, started to feel sick as well.
When the coughing started, I knew for sure – it was the dreaded cold – the last thing I wanted to have on any flight, let along one that lasted 17 hours.
A cold in an enclosed space is bad for everyone so after checking in, we stopped at a pharmacy at the O.R. Tambo International Airport and bought cough drops and other cold remedies. Once on the plane, we got blankets and pillows so we could sleep.
Despite taking the cold medication and continuing to pop cough drops throughout the flight, we coughed sporadically. We felt badly about being sick and I hope we didn’t infect anyone else.
Two things come to mind on looking back: if there is a optimal time to get a cold while traveling, it would be on the day of. A day or so later, when a full blown cold developed, would probably have forced us to postpone our flight. It is never advised to travel with a severe cold as changes in cabin pressure on takeoff and landing can cause serious hearing problems.
Since our bodies were dealing with the onset of a cold, it was easy to sleep. We did for most of the 17 hours and it made the time pass quickly.
If you feel a cold coming on or get one before you fly, take the same precautions you would if you were at home. This is what I usually have on hand: Vitamins C, D and zinc – great immune system boosters and cold fighters; my personal favorites – Alpha CF and Kold Kare, taken at the start of a cold to reduce its severity and duration. If I’ve waited too long, I take over the counter remedies such as Sudafed, Afrin, etc., which help to relieve the symptoms.
So, do you think we should have flown with the early signs of a cold?