Destinations Magazine

10 Ways to Stay Healthy at 35,000 Feet

By Aswesawit @aswesawit

With all the scary news stories about passengers carrying diseases from abroad, it can sound like everyone is doomed to get sick after a plane flight. Not true. Sure, commercial jetliners only recycle about 50 percent of the cabin air but even so, there are ways to stay healthy during air travel. There are quite a few things you can do when you’re flying that will substantially reduce the risk of catching anything.

A full airplane makes staying healthy during air travel more difficult.

There are a lot of germs in this photo. Photo credit: Flickr/Doug

Dan and I do as much as we can to stay healthy, both at home and abroad. To be honest, a lot of what we do to protect ourselves are common sense—and you probably already do them—but there are a few extra tips we’ve picked up along the way that are specific to air travel. So rather than keep them to ourselves, here are some favorite tips for healthy flying along with some helpful article and product links for your convenience.

To avoid any possible confusion all the product links are to and are the actual products we use ourselves—which means all are affordable and Prime eligible. (By the way, if you buy anything through our links we’ll get a few pennies from Amazon’s profit as a thanks for our referral, so thanks in advance if you do; running a website can be expensive.)

Either way, I hope you find this article helpful. Let us know if you do!

1. Stay hydrated.

Drink plenty of water before you get on the plane and limit your caffeine. (Don’t forget to use the bathroom before you board!) Once aloft, stick to juice or bottled water (see tip #5) and go easy on the alcohol because it can be dehydrating. Definitely skip the carbonated beverages because those bubbles can cause intense belly pain with the lower cabin pressure at high altitudes. Wine? Your call. We confess that we indulge a bit because we like like to enjoy it with our meals…though to be honest the vintages rarely warrant a second glass.

Photo credit: Flickr/Peter Clark

Carbonated drinks? Coffee? Noooo! Don’t do it!   Photo credit: Flickr/Peter Clark

Tip: Bring an empty, disposable water bottle to the airport and fill it with water from the drinking fountain after you pass through security. You are permitted to carry it on board.

2. Strengthen your immune system ahead of time.

The best way to strengthen an immune system is to increase gut flora. An article in Prevention magazine says probiotics are a must-have to boost immunity,. so we mega-dose on probiotic capsules for the three days before long flights (a bottle each!). The week before we fly we also try to increase our intake of fermented products like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut. Not on the last day, though, just in case they create any excess belly gas. (Plus, we won’t offend our seatmates by reducing the local air quality, if you get my meaning.)

>> Garden%20of%20Life%20Primal%20Defense%20ULTRA,%2090%20Capsules">Garden%20of%20Life%20Primal%20Defense%20ULTRA,%2090%20Capsules">Garden%20of%20Life%20Primal%20Defense%20ULTRA,%2090%20Capsules" target="_blank">Here are the probiotic capsules we take.

3. Bring antibacterial wipes.

The air in a plane may be regularly cleaned but you can’t say the same about the seats or seat pockets. We have seen women change their babies on the same drop-down tables that later hold their meal trays, then not wash their hands. Ew! Wipe down everything, armrests, tray table and latch, light switch, seat reclining button, remote control, and everything else that you can. Sanitize your hands again after returning to your seat from the lavatory.

>> Germ-X%20Antibacterial%20Hand%20Wipes,%20Four%2030%20Wipe%20Flip-top%20Lid%20Dispensers,%20Alcohol%20Free,%20120%20Count%20Total%20Wipes">Germ-X%20Antibacterial%20Hand%20Wipes,%20Four%2030%20Wipe%20Flip-top%20Lid%20Dispensers,%20Alcohol%20Free,%20120%20Count%20Total%20Wipes">Germ-X%20Antibacterial%20Hand%20Wipes,%20Four%2030%20Wipe%20Flip-top%20Lid%20Dispensers,%20Alcohol%20Free,%20120%20Count%20Total%20Wipes" target="_blank">Here are the antibacterial wipes we carry.

Photo credit: Flickr/Doug

For optimum air travel health, sanitize everything that you can. Photo credit: Flickr/Doug

4. And speaking of the lavatory, wear shoes when you go.

The floor is often wet … and besides the fact that it’s not fun to wear wet socks back to your seat, there’s no guarantee that the wet stuff on the floor is only water. Just saying.

5. Drink bottled water only.

Thinking about drinking the tap water on board a plane? You might want to read this article from the Wall Street Journal before you do. Trust me on this: If you want to stay healthy, don’t risk your trip by drinking anything made with the water from on board—including coffee or hot tea—and never brush your teeth with the tap water.

Photo credit: Flickr/Surat Lozowick

Photo credit: Flickr/Surat Lozowick

6. Keep the blanket and pillow away from your face.

A 2007 investigation by The Wall Street Journal revealed that airlines cleaned their blankets every five to 30 days. But even if you get a freshly laundered one, keep in mind that blankets and pillows often end up on the floor, which is incredibly dirty.

7. Relax.

Stress plays havoc on the body. Relaxation is healing. Enjoy a book or magazine, nap, listen to some music or watch the onboard entertainment.

8. Use your own headset.

Even the headsets they provide are suspect. Who wants to risk getting lice or worse? We bring our favorite earbuds (they make great earlugs!) and plug them in with a special, inexpensive 2-prong adapter for airplane audio jacks.

>> 2x%20jnt's%20golden%20plated%20airline%20airplane%20flight%20adapter%20adaptor">2x%20jnt's%20golden%20plated%20airline%20airplane%20flight%20adapter%20adaptor">2x%20jnt's%20golden%20plated%20airline%20airplane%20flight%20adapter%20adaptor" target="_blank"> Here is the airplane headphone/earbud audio adapter we use.

9. Exercise.

Get up and walk around the cabin to keep your circulation going as often as you can. Being seated for a long time may increase the risk of developing blood clots in the veins in your legs (known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT), which can be life threatening. Dan developed DVT when we flew to Indonesia and couldn’t walk far for weeks. 

Tip: Many people take aspirin before flying,but if you’re prone to blood clots, you probably should ask your physician for advice.

airplane aisle

10. Rest.

Good old “R&R” (rest and relaxation) is healing. If you are changing coasts or continents, eat and sleep according to your new time zone while in flight. That nebulous neither-here-nor-there time in fight is the perfect opportunity to adjust your body’s clock and avoid jet lag, which is incredibly taxing on a body’s defenses. As further insurance against it, we also swear by No Jet-Lag, an effective homeopathic medication that we take in-flight. We have found that it delivers on its promise.

>>  Lewis%20N.%20Clark%20No-Jet-Lag%20Homeopathic%20Flight%20Fatigue%20Remedy,%2032%20Tablets">Lewis%20N.%20Clark%20No-Jet-Lag%20Homeopathic%20Flight%20Fatigue%20Remedy,%2032%20Tablets">Lewis%20N.%20Clark%20No-Jet-Lag%20Homeopathic%20Flight%20Fatigue%20Remedy,%2032%20Tablets" target="_blank">Here is the link to No Jet-Lag,

Comment below and share your favorite travel health tips.

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