Make yourself "bug proof" BEFORE your next flight

If you're going to hit the skies for some late-summer travel, you probably bring along what most people do for a flight: a book, some snacks, headphones and maybe one of those neck pillows you can pick up at the airport gift shop.

But there's something else every traveler, especially air travelers, needs to bring along for the ride -- because it's something that can eliminate the worst part of flying.

It's not the cramped conditions in coach. It's not the lousy airline food (and that's if your airline even serves food). It's not the screaming toddler running up and down the aisles and it's not even the guy in the row behind you who keeps ramming his knee into the small of your back.

It's the airline ick, or the nasty colds and other respiratory infections we tend to pick up during a flight, which can ruin your vacation just as it's getting started.

But a simple, safe and proven natural cold and flu remedy called elderberry has the power to protect you from the germs sharing the same cramped airplane quarters.

Airplanes are a closed system constantly recirculating the same stale air. So when the guy in seat 2A starts sneezing, eventually his germs will find their way to you all the way in the back of the plane.

That's why germs are about 100 times more likely to spread on an airplane than they are on the ground, and why studies show that flying will send your cold risk soaring by 20 percent.

But if you stash an elderberry supplement in your carry-on bag you can avoid the worst of it.

In one new study, travelers given 300 mg of elderberry suffered through significantly fewer sick days and less severe symptoms after flying than those given a placebo.

But you might want to consider taking an even higher dose to truly shield yourself from getting sick. Other studies on cold and flu patients have found that taking between two and four times that amount can really chase off viruses and prevent or ease illness.

You'll find elderberry in health food stores and online, both on its own and as part of immune-boosting blends, usually as a syrup. Even if you're not planning to travel, it'll come in handy during cold and flu season.

I recommend an organic formula from a maker you trust.