Healthy Travels: Catch Your Flight—And Nothing More

Staying healthy while traveling can be a real challenge, particularly when you're flying on a commercial jet. Here are some tips to help you arrive at your destination safe and sound.

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If you asked frequent fliers to rank their worst travel nightmares, sitting next to a fellow passenger who is sick would probably rank near the top. After all, no one wants to be stuck in a confined space, breathing recycled air, while strapped into a tiny airplane seat as the person next to them coughs, hacks, and sneezes for three hours.

Sadly, this is an all too common occurrence, often resulting in us arriving at our destination having been exposed to a wide variety of germs that have the potential to ruin just about any trip. Fortunately there are a few things you can do to help avoid getting sick. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind the next time you’re on a crowded flight.


Staying healthy on a long flight actually begins before you ever get on the plane. Be sure to drink plenty of water before you board since you’ll tend to dehydrate because of the dry air on the aircraft while in flight. Getting plenty of fluids will keep your throat and nasal passages moist, which in turn helps your body stave off germs that could make you sick. Continue to drink liquids while in the air, but don’t drink any water that comes from the tap in the lavatory.

Be Aware of Your Fellow Passengers

Just as you would avoid a friend or family member when they’re under the weather, it is a good idea to keep away from fellow passengers who might be ill as well. Keep an eye out for anyone on the flight who might look like they are suffering from some sort of illness and try not to come into prolonged contact with them. If the flight is relatively empty, you may be able to change seats to avoid exposure. Sometimes just putting a little extra space between yourself and a sick person can make all the difference.

Turn on Your Air Vent

Contrary to popular belief, the air on an aircraft isn’t really bad for you at all. Sure, it is recycled while in flight, but it is also filtered. That helps to remove many of the harmful elements from the cabin, actually making it harder for germs to be shared. If you want to make things a bit safer, turn on your air vent too. This will help the air continue to circulate around you, which will also help prevent the spread of germs.

Disinfect Your Seat Area

While a cleaning crew typically removes litter, newspapers, magazines, and other assorted items from an aircraft between flights, the plane only gets thoroughly cleaned once every few weeks or so. That means that germs can live on surfaces inside the cabin for hours at a time, potentially getting you sick in the process. But wiping down your immediate seat area with disinfectant wipes can help kill off harmful bacteria and lingering viruses. Be sure to pay extra attention to the armrests and tray tables, which can be a haven for germs.

Wash Your Hands

This tip probably goes without saying, but it’s as a good reminder nonetheless. It is important that you wash your hands thoroughly, using both soap and water, after using the lavatory on board the aircraft. The bathrooms on commercial airliners are well known for being a breeding ground for germs, but scrubbing your hands carefully before returning to your seat will help to keep you safe and healthy.

Bring Your Own Pillow and Blanket

Airlines often hand out pillows and blankets on longer flights, which help to make passengers a bit more comfortable in the air. But those items aren’t replaced every time the aircraft lands at a new destination. Instead, they’re folded up and reused on the next flight. That means there is a good chance that the pillow or blanket that you are given has already been used by someone else. Bring your own if you want to avoid being exposed to germs.

Hopefully these tips will allow you to avoid getting sick on your next flight and help you arrive at your destination completely rested and ready to go. After all, there is nothing worse than feeling under the weather when you’re away from the comfort of your own home.