How to Avoid Getting Sick on an Airplane - PIH Health

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Published on November 03, 2014

How to Avoid Getting Sick on an Airplane

How to Avoid Getting Sick on an Airplane

How to Avoid Getting Sick on an Airplane

Does it seem like you get sick every time you travel by airplane? Germs, bacteria and air pressure changes can often complicate your travel plans. Many people find themselves fighting the onset of a cold a few days after they arrive at their destination. 

What makes you sick? According to Grace Jae MD, a PIH Health Family Medicine physician, here are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of catching a cold after traveling:

Start Your Trip Off Healthy

In addition to maintaining a nutritional diet, you may build up your ability to fight sickness with supplemental products that support your immunity.  Consider speaking to your doctor about questions you may have about supplements. Also, make sure that you are well rested before your trip, and are well hydrated before and during your travels.

Wash your hands

Do not underestimate the value of this basic tip. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly and as often as possible, especially before eating and after using the restroom.                                                         

Manage Airplane EarsPainful ears

When the airplane takes off or descends, air can get stuck in the middle ear.  If you have any mucus in your ears due to allergies or a cold, it can become trapped and later become infected, which can in turn cause you to get sick. Consider using a nasal saline rinse along with a daily non-drowsy anti-allergy medication to clear the production of mucus. Infections can also be prevented by releasing the pressure by chewing gum, yawning or gently blowing your nose. If you typically have difficulty equalizing your ears, you can also reduce the production of mucus by taking a decongestant 30 minutes to an hour before takeoff as long as you do not have a history of elevated blood pressure.


Equip yourself with sanitizing wipes. These wipes can come in handy and help minimize germs when used to wipe down tray tables, arm rests and airplane seats.

Drink water

Staying hydrated on your flight is extremely important. Dehydration can cause you to become run down and make it easier to catch a cold. When the flight attendant offers you an inflight beverage, it is always wise to choose water instead of alcohol or soda.

Bring your own travel pillows and blankets

The ones that are offered to you on the airplane are often used multiple times before they are cleaned, and contain germs and bacteria.

By taking into account these measures the next time you travel via an airplane, you can help minimize your chances of getting sick. 

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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