Because airplanes recirculate air, air travelers are at risk for contracting respiratory illnesses, as well as surface germ-delivered diseases. Recirculated air means that if even one passenger on the plane has a contagious flu or respiratory virus, every other person sharing the plane can be at risk to catch the illness.
Fortunately, there are many things every traveler can do to avoid catching airplane illnesses. Below are many helpful tips anyone can use to stay healthy during a flight:
1. Hydrate Heavily—
The most important doctor-recommended thing everyone can do to boost their immune system before and during air travel is to drink plenty of water. Caffeine is a diuretic and can actually cause the body to eliminate liquids rather than retain them, so if you’re not a fan of water, opt for juice or ginger ale.
Lowered air humidity in the cabin of an airplane dries out sinuses, which weakens defenses and our immune systems, and makes us susceptible to catching illness. By keeping your system hydrated, you not only help all bodily functions run smoothly, you increase throat and nose/sinus mucus, which is your respiratory system’s number one defense against airborne germs.
2. Make Friends with the Filters—
There are face masks and nasal screens available to physically block microbial infection from infiltrating your nasal, sinus and throat passages. You may feel like the odd one out if you are the only passenger wearing filters, but you might also be the only passenger on the flight who doesn’t catch the flu floating around via recirculated air, giving you the last laugh.
Don’t forget that gloves can work to eliminate the risk of illness by preventing you from touching germs, effectively working as filters for your hands. They also serve as a reminder to not touch eyes, mouth, or other mucus membranes.
3. Don’t Touch Surfaces—
Thinking about grabbing that magazine in the seat pocket in front of you? You may want to reconsider. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, many contagious respiratory illnesses can stay alive up to three hours on any surface.
If you must touch, bring plenty of antibacterial alcohol-based wipes along so you can disinfect all of the surfaces in your vicinity. This is especially recommended for travelers with children who can’t be trusted to keep their hands to themselves.
4. Open Air Vents—
It seems like the opposite of what you should do, as you imagine all the recirculated germs flowing at you from the vent, but studies have actually shown less flu and cold transmission on flights with good air circulation.
Researchers believe this might be caused by the fact that airplane air is filtered, so more circulation means more filtering. You might also be helping yourself avoid contraction of airborne disease by blowing the germs away from yourself with the air.
5. Know Your Respiratory Rights—
According to current regulations, passengers must be removed from an aircraft within 30 minutes of shutting off the ventilation system, yet quite often this rule isn’t followed. And when people are forced to stay on a plane with the ventilation system turned off, studies have shown much higher rates of passenger illness after those flights.
If your flight is delayed and you notice the ventilation system has been turned off, start timing. After 30 minutes, ask a flight attendant to turn the ventilation system back on in accordance with regulations.
If you will be flying the friendly skies and are worried about catching an airborne illness, never fear; there are many things you can do to protect yourself from sickness. Use the 5 helpful tips above to avoid contagious germs, and have happy, healthy travels!
Editor’s Note: Kelly Smothers is a professional blogger that enjoys discussing health topics. She writes for Filteryourlife.com, a nasal air filter company.