Sniffles Not as Cute as a Hamster

Multiple Sclerosis takes flight

It started innocently enough.  A sneeze, that’s all.  Just one little achoo and then people were wishing me polite blessings from the big guy in the sky, even higher than we were.

“God bless you,” from the couple across the aisle.

“God bless you,” from the flight attendant who just handed me crackers.

“Gesundheit,” from the 20something behind me.  (Everyone thinks “gesundheit” is German for something like “good health to you.”  It actually means “I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with you but don’t you dare breath on me!

No sooner had that one sneeze transpired then came another.

And another.

That was when my mom said, “I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with you but don’t you dare breathe on me!)

My mom, sister and I were flying to Arizona to visit my great nephews, who happen to be super great by the way.  We don’t get to see these kids often and it scares me how quickly time passes.  It seems like just 5 or 6 years ago they were babies.

I was not going to get sick, these sneezes were a fluke, they had to be. But no sooner did I have that thought when the sniffles started.  That should be ok- sniffles aren’t that bad.  I used to have a hamster named Sniffles- he was cute.  Sniffles would be alright. 

But then the sneezing continued and the sniffles turned into a runny nose and misery, not just for me but for the passengers.  It was sneeze, blow my nose, blow my nose again, sneeze, blow my nose, put a dab of hand lotion on my raw, burning nostrils, blow my nose again.  I was absolutely fine and then with one sneeze I quickly turned into a runny, sickly mess.

First, I went through all the tissues I had brought with me.  (I used to work in social services and tissues on my person were a job requirement.  Now that I’m a social services client I need them more than ever.)

I went through the tissues my mom brought and then the napkins my sister had asked for when the flight attendant brought her water.  It wasn’t long before I had to venture in the tiny bathroom for more.

That still wasn’t enough.

Soon I had to ask the flight crew if they had an extra box.  They did and I used most of that too which meant no Kleenex for the rest of the passengers as they only had one extra box.

(Ten sets of golf clubs jammed onto the overstuffed, overhead bins but extra boxes of tissues?  No way.  They could totally exceed the weight limit.  Better just bring one and leave the rest on the tarmac.)

This mystery illness was not endearing me to the folks around me who assumed I must have some horrible flu and willingly brought my germs with me on the flight, just for kicks.

The thing is, this happened before.  It happened when I received a scholarship to a really cool conference (HealtheVoices 2017.)  One minute I was fine, the next minute my nasal passages were releasing enough fluid to flood the Earth.  The Pacific has nothing on my sinuses when this unknown mid-flight illness begins.

So why does this happen?  What is it about hurtling through the sky at 600 miles per hour in a metal tube with 200 strangers that makes me break out in grossness?  I do the tricks I’ve been advised.

I scarf down Airborne like they’re M&M’s and sanitize everything. My carry on definitely contains hand sanitzer.  As a matter of fact, it contains hand sanitizer and not much else.

Except M&M’s of course.

I do use a nasal spray before the flight to help with the other flying trauma, the ear popping that sounds like it would be fun, like popcorn or bubble wrap popping (best useless pastime ever!) but can actually be super painful.  But it can’t be nasal spray causing this germy, sneezing, nose blowing malaise- it was recommended to me by a doctor.

Well, actually, it was recommended to my mother by HER doctor but a doctor is a doctor right? I thought of doing a nasal experiment now that the trip is over but if nasal spray is the culprit, who wants to turn themselves into that mess at home?  Tissues are expensive.

Is this multiple sclerosis related?  The National MS Society’s latest issue of Momentum magazine just did a feature on traveling with multiple sclerosis and this didn’t come up at all.   The article mentioned accessible accommodations, getting plenty of rest, preplanning when it comes to your RXS and knowing where you would find emergency care if needed.  (Really good article by the way, check it out if you missed it.)

But it didn’t mention what to do when your nose won’t stop and passengers are giving you the stink eye because you might get them sick.  Invisible illness in deed!

Both times this happened once I arrived at my destination the symptoms died down slightly and went away completely after 2-3 days.  But that’s 2-3 days of my vacation!   Or of a free conference!

I can’t tell you what this latest medical crazy is about but I wonder if it’s happened to any of you.  I’m going to be my own scientist and say it’s likely from a weakened immune system combined with travel fatigue, combined with stress, combined with bad airport food, combined with too many M&M’s, combined with MS.

Because, as you know, when in doubt just blame MS!

Friends if you would like more information about the HealtheVoices conference please check out their website here,



Note-  2 Whole weeks after I published this post I realized that the whole thing is a big fat lie!!  True, I did get sick on both flights.  That’s not the lie.  The lie is I NEVER HAD A HAMSTER NAMED SNIFFLES!!  How could I make that up???  I remember now that I had a hamster named Tickles- perhaps my MS brain messed up his real name.  Please accept my apologies.  While I may exxagerate a bit to make a humor point here and there, I’ve never lied.  Stupid MS…..

6 thoughts on “Sniffles Not as Cute as a Hamster

  1. Funny but not so funny I guess. My husband (who does NOT have MS) gets sick as soon as he gets on the plane and always has (thank God I wasn’t the one traveling with him to Australia or China on business!) Me – nothing and I have MS. Planes are notoriously filthy and the air pressure is non existent and air circulation – well none. Perhaps because I had flown so often in my “youth” for business or who knows why but my son and I don’t become ill on planes, usually we wait til we get to the destination (lol.) But perhaps you take too many anti-germ precautions? I am not a great believer in all this germ defying soap and cleansers etc. Airborne def does NOT work and has been scientifically proven not to do so. So get yourself dirty, get used to the germs and let your body get acclimated prior to flying and maybe that will help or maybe not but best luck on your next trip and may the flying bugs stay away from you until you are at least home where you can enjoy your illness!

    • It’s so bizarre how suddenly it happens. Is that how it happens to your husband too? Great info on the Airborne- I’ll totally stop wasting money on that. It tastes gross too, hence the M&M’s. Ahhh…..the weirdness….

  2. Very funny! Yes, I laughed at YOUR misery. Oh well, that’s what humor is, right?
    I don’t blame the other passengers, as a slight germophobe, I would give you the stink eye as well.
    Funny account, glad you are better!

    • Remember that movie the Boy in the Plastic Bubble? I think I’m going to get one of those bubbles and next time my mom and sis can just roll me onto the plane. At least then people will be glaring at me because I’m in a big plastic bubble and NOT because I’m giving them germs I didn’t have!

  3. “combined with too many M&M’s, combined with MS.”

    Try eating just the M and the &, leaving out the Ms. Well, it’s the people who want the labels, not the candy the people make! So limiting oneself to just those sh— oh, right, the & doesn’t get printed on anything but the bag. Not that I’m suggesting anyone eat the bag!

    Yeah, I know it’s nuts. (Which has nothing at all to do with peanut M&Ms.)(Although that hasn’t been tested, so I could well take that on. Y’know, in the name of science!)

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