Best Ways to Stay Healthy on the Airplane
With cold and flu season in full swing and the coronavirus outbreak making global headlines, many travelers are wondering how to stay healthy on the airplane. The close quarters of the small aircraft and fears of poor air circulation are some of travelers’ top concerns.
Many travelers might be surprised to find out that modern aircraft circulate relatively sterile air, with 50% of the air coming from outside the plane and 50% recycled through high-efficiency particle HEPA filters. It’s also important to note that just because someone five rows behind you is coughing, does not mean you are doomed. You are most likely to pick up germs from the passengers directly in front, behind you, or in your row. Even so, there are several things you can do to protect yourself and stay healthy on the airplane and beyond.
Get healthy before your flight
Your pre-flight “health checklist” includes many things that you really should be doing already. But it never hurts to be extra cautious right before a big trip. After all, you don’t want to spend your entire trip coughing in Caracas or sneezing in Salzburg!
1. Eat well
Good, nourishing food does wonders for keeping you healthy and safe from disease. While nutrition experts may debate the nuances of trendy diets such as Whole30, keto, paleo, and more, the basic guidelines are still the same. Aim for a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains. Avoid sugars and highly processed foods. Use your common sense!
2. Stay in shape
Physical fitness is a great way to keep your body strong and prevent illness. Additionally, a good workout routine can help you prepare for any extra walking or hiking you will do on your trip. Try setting some attainable fitness goals for yourself in the months leading up to your trips.
3. Get enough sleep
Studies show that a lack of sleep will reduce your body’s ability to resist and fight infectious diseases. Mayo Clinic suggests 7-8 hours of sleep for adults, 9-10 for teens, and 10+ hours of sleep for school-aged children.
4. Take your vitamins
Don’t forget to take any vitamins or supplements you normally do to stay healthy. Consider giving yourself an extra immune boost by adding a Vitamin C supplement to your routine.
5. Check with your doctor
If you have any concerns about your health, schedule a visit with your doctor to verify that you are “fit to fly.” Your doctor can also help determine if you are up-to-date on any vaccinations that are advised for your intended destination.
Stay healthy during your flight
6. Wipe down hard surfaces
Take a minute to wipe down hard surfaces as soon as you get to your seat on the plane. This includes your tray table (don’t forget the latch), armrests, window, and the overhead lighting and vent panel. While flight crews do a thorough cleaning of the aircraft each night, there often isn’t time to do this between each and every flight. Keep a small pack of disinfectant wipes in your carry-on to use for each of your flights.
7. Wash your hands
The coronavirus frenzy has generated a wave of memes and articles about washing your hands. Many people are quick to roll eyes, “Really?! Who needs to be reminded to wash their hands?” But the truth is that the majority of people do not wash their hands often enough or well enough to get a good clean. And think for a minute. When the peanuts and pretzels are passed on a flight, how many people get up and wash their hands? Or bust out the hand-sanitizer? Yes, it’s hard to get to the bathroom on the plane, and sanitizer may not be quite as effective as a good washing. But do your best, and when in doubt, opt for snacks that do not require your fingers to eat.
8. Don’t touch your face
How many times each hour do you touch your face? If you pause and pay attention, the answer may surprise you. You might notice you routinely put your hand to your mouth when thinking, rub your nose, or mess with your mascara. Making a conscious effort to avoid these reflex habits is an important way to keep yourself from picking up a virus.
If you have any other medical concerns, be sure to discuss these with your doctor prior to your trip.