Be Well Blog

Avoid the Airplane Cold

Tips to Help You Stay Healthy While Traveling

Traveling during the holidays can be anxiety-inducing, especially if you’re worried about catching an airplane cold. The Wall Street Journal cited a study that found an increased risk of catching the cold by as high as 20 percent, while another study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that colds may be 113 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than during normal daily life on the ground.

What Causes Airplane Colds

There have been many studies that run through potential sources of higher transmission in airplanes, but the common finding is extremely low cabin humidity caused by low humidity in high elevations. At such low levels of humidity, your natural defense system of mucus in your nose and throat dries up, creating a much more tolerant environment for cold and flu germs to infect us.

Tips to Stay Healthy During Your Travel

  1. Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can help fortify your natural immune mechanisms to function better.
  2. Make sure you’ve received the flu vaccine, especially if you’re traveling to states that have already reported several cases of the flu. Also think about taking EmergenC or Airborne a few days prior to flying, providing your body with a boost of vitamins.
  3. Wash and disinfect hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and after blowing your nose.  If you’re traveling on a plane, be sure to disinfect your tray table and seat.
  4. While traveling, make sure food is cooked well, without cross-contamination between clean and dirty surfaces. Be sure to avoid food that has been sitting out for a prolonged period of time.
  5. If you are at increased risk for severe infection, for example those with weak immune systems, pregnant woman and young children, make sure to consult your doctor before you travel.
  6. Engage in cough etiquette. Travelers with weak immune systems should wear a mask when sitting in airplanes or walking through the airport.
  7. Move your overhead air vent to steer germs away from your face.  Either move the air vent so that air is flowing on your hands when they’re in your lap, or shut off the air vent completely.