You’ve waited months and worked hard for this trip. The only thing standing between you and your vacation is a flight with about 280 people you don’t know. All you want is to get there safely with your health intact so that you can have a good time. Stay healthy by keeping three principles in mind.
Protect yourself against viruses
It’s hard to social distance on an airplane. Hundreds of people breathing the same air in an indoor space can heighten fears about contracting COVID-19. The good news is that the air in the flight cabin is probably safer to breathe than the air inside your local grocery mart.
Airplanes use hospital-grade HEPA filters that remove 99.9% of airborne particles, including viruses like COVID-19, from the air. Every 2-3 minutes, exchange systems replace cabin air with filtered air that blows top-down to eliminate particle movement. Face masks and COVID-19 immunizations help further safeguard you against airborne infection.
Contracting COVID-19 after touching infected surfaces is less likely but still possible, and cold and flu viruses are still a concern.
Some additional tips to staying healthy while flying:
- Continue to practice good hand hygiene and always carry sanitizing wipes.
- Try to eliminate as much hand-to-hand contact with surfaces as possible by using your own pen and investigating mobile boarding passes.
- Try to empty the contents of your pockets into your carry-on bag before going through security screening to avoid touching the TSA bins.
Care for your body while flying
Once you’ve boarded the plane and begun your journey, four things can wreak havoc on your body while in flight. You can prepare ahead of time to deal with each one.
Cabin pressure in flight is low enough to feel like you are in the mountains at about 8,000 feet, which means there is less oxygen in the air. Most people won’t notice the difference, but the change in pressure can affect your ear, sinuses and stomach pressure levels. Bringing along chewing gum may help. You can also try yawning to equalize pressure changes between the flight cabin and inside your head. Choose light foods that will go easy on your stomach if you eat on the flight.
Motion sickness can be a real problem for some, especially during takeoff or landing or if skies are rough. The area of the plane with the least amount of movement is right over one of the wings. Choosing a window seat in that area will help minimize nausea.
Immobility is a problem for everyone, especially on long flights. Sitting for prolonged periods of inactivity can increase the chances of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the veins in your body, usually the legs. Climbing over half a dozen passengers for an unneeded extra potty break would help, but there’s an easier solution. Try tapping your foot to get your legs moving and your calf muscle contracting. The muscle contractions will pump blood more efficiently through your legs and keep your veins clear. While not a fashion statement, compression socks can also help increase blood flow in your lower legs.
Humidity on the plane will be below 25%, drying out your sinuses and skin. Going beyond hand lotion to solve this problem will help to keep you from getting sick. Your nasal passages and sinuses are your first-line defense against viral infection. Keep them moist by drinking plenty of water. Consider taking a saline solution spray to keep your nasal passages from drying out. Limit or eliminate caffeine during your flight, which tend to eliminates water from the body.
Prepare days before you fly
You can prepare for inflight stresses before you arrive at the airport with a few simple steps. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle if you arrive for your flight feeling parched and dry. Make sure you drink enough water and get proper nutrition the day before.
Make sleep a priority. Your body loses some of its ability to fight infections when it’s sleep deprived. Boost your immune system by getting at least eight hours of sleep in the days before you leave.
Manage medications. Prepare for the unexpected by packing a list of all your medications and a record of your medical history. Be sure to pack medications and your records in your carry-on, so you always have access to them.
If you are feeling sick before traveling, it may be wise to reschedule your flight if possible. If you have health concerns before a planned flight, or if you need to get a COVID test, visit your local CareNow®.
You can also avoid the waiting room entirely by utilizing our Web Check-In® feature before your visit!
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.