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11 Expert Tips on How to Stay Healthy on a Plane

Flying is one of the fastest and most comfortable ways to reach your destination. Each time we board, we see neat rows of seats and a smiling cabin crew. But in this perfect environment, you actually have a higher chance of illness than in almost any other place, catching germs and bacteria that can result in serious diseases.

We at Bright Side want to share with you expert tips on how to stay healthy on a plane and reach your destination in perfect shape. Which of these have you already been doing?

11. Avoid flying with a recently broken limb and a cast.

Normally, airplanes fly at 35,000 feet as the air is thinner and smoother there, but the air pressure is much lower than at ground level. Under cabin pressure, your limbs can expand and cut off circulation, which can result in permanent damage.

Tip: If you have to fly, just ask your doctor to make extra room in your cast. Or you can choose an expandable cast.

10. Avoid bacteria in pillows and blankets.

The pillows and blankets are used multiple times, so they are loaded with bacteria and germs. The same applies to the packaged ones. There were claims in the past that airlines repackaged blankets and pillows without cleaning or only cleaned them every 5 to 30 days. Even freshly washed blankets are set out only for the first flight of the day, leaving those who board toward the end of the day at risk.

Tip: Bring your own blanket or neck pillow. Opt for ones that can be laundered as the cheaper kind can also transmit germs.

9. Don't touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Try to avoid touching areas (mouth, eyes, nose) that are easily accessed by the microorganisms waiting to get into your body. Even washing your hands won’t help you reduce the number of germs you are surrounded by on an airplane.

Tip: If you can't help this habit, make sure you have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer close to you.

8. Reduce your chances of catching the flu through armrests and trays.

An airplane is supposed to be wiped down and cleaned after every 30 days of service, which means you’ll never know if you are boarding a freshly cleaned one or not. If the previous passenger had the flu, the chances of you getting it as well are high. Anonymously, some cabin crew claimed they had seen passengers using tray tables to change their baby's diaper or cut their fingernails.

Tip: Make sure you have a pack of antibacterial wet wipes. Wipe your tray, armrests, and any other hard surfaces (including your hands once you’re done).

7. Stay away from coffee and alcohol to avoid jet lag and bladder irritation.

Avoid drinking alcohol and coffee 12 hours before and during a flight. These beverages can make your jet lag worse when you land. They cause dehydration, and, taking into consideration that the air on the airplane is dry itself, you are set up for double pressure. Coffee can also irritate your bladder and make you feel uncomfortable during the flight.

Tip: Go for decaffeinated tea (herbal teas like chamomile or peppermint), juice, or water to stay hydrated.

6. Stay hydrated to prevent sinus infections.

The air can be 55% drier on an airplane than in any other normal indoor place. Your protective membranes and sinuses can acutely dry out. This can result in you being more vulnerable to developing a sinus infection or catching a cold.

Tip: Drink water before and during the flight. Avoid foods high in fat and salt as they can result in dehydration and make your digestion take longer (nobody needs bloating). Go for low-fat snacks and meals, and bring your own fresh veggie snacks or fruit.

5. Keep deadly bugs and germs away from your body.

As you have seen, airplanes are surprisingly full of germs, from the water and meals we are served to the blankets and lavatories we use. The cleaners don't really have much time to properly clean the aircraft between flights as they are constantly under pressure to provide a fast turnaround. As a result, you are exposed to a bouquet of germs and bacteria, from Aspergillus niger, which can result in pneumonia and infections, to MRSA, a deadly superbug.

Tip: If you are a frequent flier, try to take a lot of vitamin C as it helps build immunity and resistance to new germs. Another way to support your immune system is echinacea drops or tea.

4. Wear a surgical mask if you have a weak immune system.

Even during a short flight, you're still in an enclosed space, and bacteria thrive in such conditions. If you have a weak immune system and are prone to illnesses, take care of yourself and wear a mask. This way, you'll protect both yourself and others (in case it's you who is ill).

Tip: Choose packaged masks, which you can buy at any pharmacy. Clean your hands with hand sanitizer, or wash them with soap before putting your mask on. When you take the mask off, avoid touching the front as it is contaminated – just use the ear loops. After throwing the mask away, wash your hands.

3. Change your sleeping schedule.

If you are planning to fly to a new time zone, it would be wise to adjust your sleeping and eating schedule. Traveling east? Go to bed just an hour earlier every day in the 2 or 3 days before your flight. West? One hour later. Your body will have a smoother transition to the new time zone.

Tip: Set your watch to the destination time a couple of days before your flight. Adjust your meal and sleep schedule to your future destination’s time zone (within reason).

2. Prevent poor blood circulation.

Sitting in one position can result in deep vein thrombosis and slow blood flow through the veins, which can result in very painful clots. Poor circulation makes your feet feel swollen, numb, or cold. Wearing tight jeans can also hamper circulation. Tightly fitted clothes around your waist and legs make your heart work harder to pump the blood to and from your legs.

Tip: Choose slightly loose garments for your flight. Try to get more movement to keep your blood flowing and prevent any circulation issues. Even lifting up your knees and making small circles with your feet will do a lot. Rolling your shoulders and neck and doing a forward bend will be a plus.

1. Turn on the air circulation to avoid dust particles.

Don’t turn off the air circulation above you – even if you feel cold. The airflow prevents the circulation of airborne illnesses like tuberculosis and meningitis, which can stay in the air for up to 5 hours. The air vent creates its own air barrier, forcing the viruses toward the ground and blocking them from reaching the passenger. Also, most HEPA filters help remove around 99.9% of dust particles.

Tip: If the cold becomes unbearable, turn the air circulation to another side so that it's not blowing directly at you.

Have you done any of these before? Do you have other tips and suggestions you've tried yourself? Share with us in the comments.

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