Posted in Health, news, travel

How to Avoid Getting Sick When You Fly

Holiday season means it’s the travel season. And winter colds may be merrily jumping around an airplane you’re traveling in.  And not just viruses are lurking, deadly drug resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, have been found to colonize airplane surfaces.  So here’s a list of things you should consider to avoid getting sick when you fly this holiday break:

 Open the air vent and aim it IN FRONT of your face

The air will help blow pathogens away from your respiratory tree.




Don’t sit next to someone who appears sick

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the average passenger does not want to appear rude and will suck it up, literally.  If your flight has you sitting next to a passenger who is coughing up phlegm in your direction and no other seats are available, considering changing flights or cover your nose and mouth with a mask or sweater.


plane sick.jpg


Wash your hands and avoid touching your face

A recent study from Auburn university found deadly pathogens like E. coli and MRSA to survive for up to 7 days on surfaces surrounding your airplane seat.  Tray tables, arm rests, bathroom doors, drinking fountain buttons and even the air vent button can house bacteria so wash your hands after touching any of these surfaces.




Wipe down your surrounding areas

Antimicrobial wipes can help protect you against nasty bugs on any of the aforementioned surfaces.

tray table.jpg


Avoid sitting in aisle seats, especially near the lavatory

People stand in line to use the bathroom and breathe and cough on you while you’re trying to enjoy your movie or nap.  The window seat may be safer.

aisle seat.jpg

Carry-on some of your prescriptions 

Make sure to have half of your medications in your suitcase and half with you in your carry-on in case the flight gets delayed or you lose one of your bags.

Use your own pillow when you sleep

Your body loves your own personal microbiome and airplane pillows may carry germs you don’t wish to keep.  Remember to bring an extra pillowcase so you can change it out before you use it again on the flight back.

Eat a balanced diet prior to travel, and every day for that matter  

Fruits, vegetables, protein, complex carbs and fiber help your immune system.  A strong immune system can help you fight some of the worst of pathogens.

Stay hydrated

We forget to drink water when we travel and moist mucous membranes in our noses and mouths are less likely to pick up bacteria and viruses than dry ones.

Be well rested prior to travel

Conversely, poor sleep will weaken your immune system.

Remember to reach out to your medical provider a few weeks before you travel in case he or she goes on vacation as well.  Any medications that need to be adjusted or refilled should be done prior to travel or you running out.

Safe travels!!!


Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.


Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, Author

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