Health Tips for Air Travelers

Factors such as low humidity, added pressure on your body’s system when cruising at a high altitude and close proximity to others who may be carrying germs make airplanes high-risk zones for catching unwanted ailments.

Here are five ways to stay healthy when traveling by air.

​Bring a travel-sized pack of tissues

Our noses tend to run in dry environments—like airplanes—as they try to replenish moisture, so plan to bring a travel-sized pack of tissues on the plane. Blowing your nose rather than sniffling can discourage germs from multiplying inside your nose.

​Use hand sanitizer

Use hand sanitizer before you eat or drink on the airplane. This will cut down on germs you may have picked up.

​Avoid consuming airplane tap water

In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency found high levels of fecal bacteria in the tap water of many airplanes that it tested. New standards were set in 2009 to improve tap water on airplanes, and it is now considered safe to drink as long as you don’t have a suppressed immune system. However, you may choose to live by the motto “better safe than sorry.”

​Stimulate your calf muscles

If you are on a longer flight, your risk for leg clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) increases. Legs have one-way valves where the blood can only move toward the heart. The only way to get that blood to the heart is muscle contraction.

Any sort of activity that stimulates the calf muscles will help to prevent DVT. Simply contract your calf muscles or raise your feet to your toes and back down again while sitting in your seat.

​Position your airplane air vent strategically

Pathogens may reach your lungs before they reach the air filter on the airplane. Use your air vent to strategically reroute germs away from you by positioning it to better circulate the air around your face. ​To do this, open your air vent to a low or medium setting and position it to blow straight down in front of your head and towards your lap.​

Dr. Hsieh is an internal medicine physician with The Christ Hospital Physicians.