4 Ways to Stay Healthy in the Air

I have had experiences in the past when I came down with a wicked cold after flying. It usually happened when hacking passengers surrounded me. I have been relatively lucky lately, but I am planning on doing more long-distance travel. This has prompted me to find some easy tips to help me stay healthy, particularly during long flights.

Baby, It’s Dry Up There
The airplane is pressurized and there is less available oxygen than what we have down on the ground. In addition, the air is dry: The humidity in the plane is below 25 percent, which is at least 10 percent lower than at home. Taking slow, easy breaths is essential. Using a saline nasal spray will help keep your nasal tissues moist and comfortable. A tiny amount of cream will keep your hands and face moist. It is important to drink water and avoid drinks that will dehydrate you, such as alcohol or coffee. Gatorade may also be a good choice, especially before you get on the flight.

Keep Your Blood Moving
By staying hydrated, you keep your blood moving. This will help prevent blood clots, which can occur from sitting in one position for a long time.

It’s also important for you to keep moving. You can keep the blood circulating through your legs by flexing your calves frequently. If you are prone to swelling, pantyhose such as Hanes Alive make for good compression stockings. If you are able to take aspirin, taking two baby aspirin prior to the flight would also be a good idea.

Beat the Germs
How do you withstand the bacteria- and virus-ridden air? The answer sounds simple but is complex. Bottom line: You need to have a healthy immune system to start with. All the general rules for a strong immune system apply:

  • Eat healthy and exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Get a flu shot before you travel.
  • Take your Host Defense Mycommunity blend of mushrooms before you get on the plane. It has antiviral properties that can help you.

Make sure that you bring antibacterial wipes and clean the tray table. Also, stay out of that seat pocket, which can contain some really gross stuff. Sometimes, they do not remove the vomit bags that have been used (yuk!).

Carry on a Few Key Items
The trick to flying in comfort is to be very prepared. For your mental health, bring plenty of reading material or spring for the headphones and watch funny movies the whole trip.

I was on a trip recently where the man behind me opened up his food bag and I thought I was going to throw up; it smelled horrible. For instances like this I suggest bringing a scarf or handkerchief sprinkled with essential oil such as lavender. You just put it up to your nose and it will smell great and calm you down.

There are no guarantees, but these simple steps may help to keep you healthy the next time you fly. Bon voyage!

Take our Healthy Flying quiz.

What do you do to avoid catching a bug when traveling? Let us know your secrets in the comment box below.

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Robin Miller

Dr. Robin Miller, Sharecare Editorial Advisory Board Member, currently practices Internal Medicine and serves as the medical director of Triune Integrative Medicine, a highly innovative Integrative Medicine clinic in Medford, Oregon. She has produced the award-winning health series, “Is there a Doctor in the House,” which is shown nationwide on the GE-sponsored Patient Channel, and is the author of "Kids Ask the Doctor" and the co-author of “The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife and Beyond: A No-Nonsense Approach to Staying Healthy after 50".

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