Staying Healthy During Air Travel
Air Travel is a fact of life for most of us. It has made it easy for us to travel around the world in record time and in relative safety. But many worry about staying healthy during air travel; after all, pathogens can travel around the world, too. With the advent of diseases like MRSA and norovirus, airline passengers want to protect themselves from contracting potentially deadly diseases.
Air Travel Facts and Myths
- It’s been said that airplane air, being recirculated, can carry pathogens from one part of the plane to the other. This is only partly true. Some air is recirculated, but fresh air is also pulled in on a regular basis. The fact is that airplanes carry high-grade filters designed to keep air clean.
- Airplane washrooms are never cleaned – the fact is that the washrooms are cleaned after every flight. There are portions of the plane that don’t get cleaned regularly, which I’ll go into later.
Here’s What You Can Do on Airplane Flights
- Be prepared – don’t assume that things like blankets, pillows, headphones and other items are brand new and/or cleaned. Bring your own. There are many travel accessories like noise-cancelling headphones, eye masks, pillows, travel blankets, compression socks, breath mints and healthy snack packs that fit easily into a carry-on bag.
- Carry sanitizing wipes for those surfaces that are used all the time, like seat belt buckles, headrests, tray tables and washroom door handles. If you can, avoid touching surfaces directly; use a tissue or paper towel. Unscented wipes like these are effective against airborne pathogens while keeping strong scents to a minimum. Wipe surfaces more than once, especially during long flights.
- Airplane air is extremely dry at about 20% humidity, which can quickly dry out mucous membranes and make you more susceptible to infections. To avoid this, hydrate regularly with plain water or seltzer. Carry a small multi-purpose lotion with you. A lip balm like our Cucumber Melon Lip Balm will keep lips happy. One of our Body Balms is an easy solution for keeping nails, hair, etc. moisturized. Sealed ampules of preservative-free eye drops can be tossed in a bag or pocket to keep dry eye away. Cough drops with ingredients like eucalyptus oil, zinc and Vitamin C are great, too.
- Avoid the aisle seat – while convenient, people using the aisle seat have been found to be more susceptible to airborne pathogens. If you do get the window seat, be sure to apply sunscreen before boarding the plane.
- As far as meals go, avoid raw foods, deli meats, shellfish, dairy and ice cubes. These tend to be more problematic on busy flights. Bottled or canned drinks, fruits with thick rinds, and individually wrapped items are generally safe. Always go by smell; it if smells off, give it a pass.
- Wear slip-on shoes and layer your clothing; airplane temperatures can vary widely.
With a little advance planning, you can make air travel a relatively pleasant experience. Staying healthy during air travel is really achievable.
Time article on the dirtiest places on airplanes
Tripsavvy.com article about air quality