Commercial airplanes are not the healthiest environments. The air on a plane is constantly recirculated throughout the cabin, allowing for the redistribution of viruses, bacteria and other harmful particles. Some pilots and frequent fliers may suffer from a condition known as Aerotoxic Syndrome, which results from breathing contaminated cabin air while in flight. The longer you are on an airplane, the more risk you have of contracting an illness or, at the very least, weakening your immune system. Here are some basic tips for how to stay healthy on a long airplane ride.
- Wash your hands. Wash them thoroughly after every trip to the bathroom and before every meal or snack, and use a moisturizing hand sanitizer as well.
- Be comfortable. Wear loose fitting clothing and take off your shoes, as cabin pressure can cause your feet to swell while in flight.
- Stand up, stretch and walk around at least once an hour. Sitting for hours at a time can increase the risk of blood clots. You can also do some simple stretches while seated.
- Eat right. Avoid foods that give you gas, before you fly. In the air, bodily gases expand by one-third. Also, many foods served on airplanes are high in sugars and starches, which can weaken your immune system and make you feel bloated. In contrast, fresh fruits and veggies, such as raw carrots, apples, bananas, and celery sticks, strengthen your immune system. If possible, bring your own snacks, so that you can control what you eat.
- Use antibacterial wipes. Wipe down armrests, your eating tray, and anything else in the area before you touch it.
- Use a saline nasal spray. Cabin air pressure can make existing sinus problems feel worse. A saline nasal spray can help you breathe easier and reduce dryness inside the nasal cavity.
- Bring your own blanket and pillow. Though most airlines supply blankets and pillows for your convenience, you never know if they are clean. Bring your own to reduce the risk of contracting germs from previous passengers. It is also a good idea to bring your own headphones.
- Stay hydrated. It is very easy to become dehydrated on a plane. The one bottle of water supplied by the flight attendants won’t be enough for a long flight. To avoid the hassle of constantly asking for more water, bring your own filtered water bottle and refill it with the tap water on the plane. Some water filter bottles, like the those manufactured by Katadyn, are specially designed for use in emergency situations, where the only water source is fresh and untreated. Such bottles will filter out most waterborne pathogens. A reusable water bottle also helps to save the environment from plastic pollution. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, while in flight, as they are both diuretics and can lead to dehydration.
- Filter the air. Face masks are not uncommon, especially if your immune system has been recently weakened by flu or virus. The other passengers sharing your flight will thank you for not spreading your germs. You can also use a Plane Clean Air Filter, which attaches easily to the overhead nozzle in most airplanes and removes 99.5 percent of all bacteria and viruses from the air stream.
- Relax and try to sleep. Stress can weaken even the healthiest of immune systems. If you have a fear of flying, it may seem impossible to relax. Here are some helpful tips on how to lessen your fear of flying. It can also be very difficult to sleep on an airplane. Try to get plenty of sleep before you travel. Use a natural supplement like melatonin, an eye mask, and earplugs, to help you fall asleep while in flight as well.
Image by Yutaka Tsutano