Staying Healthy While Flying
by Amy Scholten
Your luggage is packed with all the essentials for a fantastic vacation or that important business trip. In your suitcase, you may even have medications to make sure that you do not get sick while away from home. It is great to take steps to prevent illness at your destination. But what about steps to make sure you are not feeling miserable when you step off the airplane? Here are some tips to keep you healthy while in flight.
The Air We Breathe
You are stuck in an airplane breathing the same air with 200 other people for the next several hours. This most common of travel scenarios may make some of us uneasy, thinking that we may catch germs from sharing cabin air. However, breathe easy. Most new airplanes are equipped with high-efficiency-particle (HEPA) filters that remove bacteria, viruses, and other germs from the air. That, along with air brought in from the outside when the plane reaches a certain altitude, makes cabin air sterile and germ-free.
But what if the person next to you has a cold or the flu? Yes, if you are sitting next to, in front, or behind a person who is sick, you may be exposed to germs that may make you sick. However, you are also just as likely to get sick from touching contaminated surfaces on the plane.
How to Stay Healthy
If you are sick and must travel, be courteous to fellow travelers. Cover your cough with a tissue or cough into the inside of your elbow.
High and Dry
If it is not the funny smell of cabin air that may be off-putting, then perhaps it is the dryness. Although it may not make you sick, low-humidity air can dry out skin and eyes.
How to Stay Healthy
A Leg Up
Sitting for long periods can not only be boring, but may also lead to blood clots in your legs. This condition, known as deep vein thrombosis or traveler’s thrombosis, can cause pain and swelling in the legs during and after travel. Although uncommon, a clot has the potential to travel from the vein to the heart and lungs, causing severe blood flow blockage, which can be life-threatening.
How to Stay Healthy
Transportation Security Administration
Travelers’ Health—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Public Health Agency of Canada
Air travel health tips. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/air-travel-health-tips/. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Flying with baby. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Flying-with-Baby.aspx. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Jet lag. NHS Choices website. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/jet-lag/. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Upper respiratory infection (URI) in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/upper-respiratory-infection-uri-in-adults-and-adolescents-18. Accessed October 26, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/26/2021
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