Can Flying on an Airplane Make You Sick?

Can Flying on an Airplane Make You SickThe Girl and I are getting ready to head out the door on another one of our wild and crazy adventures.  With everyone sniffling and sneezing everywhere I go, I am always worried that when I get locked into a tiny plane with stale cabin air, I will get sick.   In fact, my Dad always comes back from vacation sick–maybe it’s the junk food people always consume on vacation, or bad hotel bed sleep, or maybe, it’s the plane?

I decided to do a little research on the air quality in planes.  Turns out, you are a little more likely to get sick on airplanes, but it’s not really the “air quality” that’s to blame.  Airplanes have HEPA filters that take both recycled air and air that has been warmed by the jets and pushes it throughout the cabin.  According to a Boeing spokesman, the air is actually better circulated better than an average office building.  The true culprit lies in the things you touch.  Airplanes shuttle hundreds of people each day, if you are next to someone who is sneezing and hacking, or you touch something that someone that was sick has previously touched, you’ll likely pick it up.

Also, the humidity on planes is pretty low–making the air feel different.  Plus, people don’t drink enough water on long flights, leading to dehydration, which weakens the immune system.  {Dry nasal passages and eyes makes it hard for your body to fight bacteria, etc.}

orange juiceSo, what can you do to prevent feeling crappy on your vacation?   I always drink the crappy orange juice they serve on the plane instead of soda hoping the extra vitamin C will do some good.  Turns out, my efforts aren’t that far off.  Staying well hydrated is key–so skip the soda, and go for juice or water.  You can also bring nasal spray to keep your mucous membranes moist {isn’t alliteration fun?}.

Also, wash your hands–like, religiously.  Try not to touch your face, if possible.  {Have you ever paid attention to how much you actually touch your face?  It’s crazy.}

If you want to be hyper vigilant, don’t be afraid to pack some sani-wipes or hand sanitizer and a tissue and clean the plastic parts of your airplane seat when you sit down.  Planes don’t get deep cleaned and sanitized very often, so even if no one on your flight is sick, there is no way to know who was on the flight before you.

Do you travel during cold and flu season?  What tips do you have to keep healthy?


Need more travel tips?  Check out some of the things I’ve learned on my adventures.  Or get some ideas on places to go on Pinterest.


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  1. Marie says

    Excellent topic! Having many friends/family who travel regularity on airplanes, I have learned that the “airplane cleaners” do not wipe down tray tables, change the cloth on your headrest or wipe down arm rests. These were standard procedures in the past but with the current funding challenges of airlines, all the cleaners do is pick up missed garbage and run a vacumn cleaner down the aisle! Who knows who was sitting in your seat, next to your seat or across the aisle.. I have even seen passengers with air filter masks on thinking they were protecting themselves! Hydration and frequent hand washing with soap always helps. Who wants to be sick during their vacation?

  2. says

    My husband and I always bring sanitizing wipes and wipe down every surface that we can when we sit down. Don’t forget the light switches and air vents above your head as well! Safe travels!

  3. julie says

    My daughter is in the airforce and everytime she comes home or flies back, she gets sick. She takes vitamin c and what have you, but it never completely eliminates it. thank you so much I will tell her to wipe down her surroundings and maybe next time she won’t spend her visit getting over the crud.

  4. Linda says

    I always ask for extra water with tomato juice and they will give you water in addition to a drink. don’t you magically wish you could twinkle your nose and just be at your destination. travel by thought is something I wish someone would invent.

  5. Danielle says

    I’m not the biggest germaphobe but when flying I will buy a water from the duty free area (bigger water more hydration for me), also while packing I get moist towels (baby wipes) and put a couple pumps of hand sanitzer on it zip it closed and toss it in with my liquids so I can explain easier than getting my bag searched. There is also nothing wrong with wearing latex gloves. Put them on as you board (avoid touching face) dispose when you take them off (do no eat with them on). It’s not a bad idea to bump up your vitamins the few days before, during and after a trip to help your body recoup.

    Safe Travels!

  6. Barb says

    I always rub Silver Shield on my hands (it’s supposed to keep the “bad germs” away for 4 hours) and rub some in my nostrils before a plane trip. And keep hydrated like the others have said. Also, don’t touch your eyes or nose if possible.

  7. Preppy Pink Crocodile says

    I am convinced planes breed illness! But I honestly thought it was the recycled air. Very good point on things we touch!

    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

  8. Carol says

    AYR Gel! It’s a life-saver to prevent dried out nostrils, plus it is a saline gel that can be used on infants, so it’s probably pretty safe. Germs don’t like saline. Along with using it on airplanes, I used it during the winter, when I taught elementary school. Saved my bacon!

  9. Michelle says

    We bring Lysol sanitizing wipes and everything gets wiped down. We have a good friend who is a pilot and the stories he tells about what happens on the tray tables convinced me that we had to clean them every time we fly. Can you imagine someone changing a baby diaper on it and you’re using it to hold your food and drinks on the next flight????? I know it’s crazy but we also don’t turn on the individual air vents. I don’t think it’s healthy for germy air to be blown in your face. Although, you’ve disproved that theory. LOL

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