Yahoo Travel
Please enable Javascript

Javascript needs to be enabled in your browser to use Yahoo Travel.

Here’s how to turn it on:

Flying During Cold/Flu Season: How to Stay Healthy

Flying During Cold/Flu Season: How to Stay HealthyFlying During Cold/Flu Season: How to Stay Healthy

It's exciting to take a trip to an exotic location far from home, but you need to stay healthy so you can enjoy it when you get there. If you're traveling by air, you could spend hours confined to a small area. If the passenger next to you happens to be coughing or sniffling, you may be exposed to whatever is causing them to hack and sneeze. And sitting for long periods of time is a health risk in and of itself.

Taking precautions to avoid illness is even more important during cold and flu season. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research , colds are up to 100 times easier to spread on a plane. As a physician, patients often ask me how to avoid illness when traveling, especially when they're flying. Need some tips on how to stay healthy when you're taking a long flight?

Boost Your Immune System

You can't control the health of the person sitting next to you who might cough in your face during the flight, but you can make sure your immune system is "up to snuff." Get extra rest before your flight. If you usually stay up late playing on the computer, skip it and make a concerted effort to get seven to eight hours of sleep before you go. Eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, and keep your stress level as low as possible beforehand. These will all help boost your immunity before you take off.

Bring a Hand Sanitizer

What could be worse than traveling and being laid up with a cold you were exposed to during your flight? Germs travel quickly in a closed environment. You may want to stop short of wearing a mask, but it's a good idea to bring along some disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer to clean your hands and the surfaces around you. Take them with you when you go to the bathroom, too, and use them to wipe off handles or door knobs before touching them. Airplane lavatories are a hotbed for viruses and bacteria. While you're in the bathroom, don't set your bag down on the floor or on the sink. You'll carry germs back to your seat along with you.

Stay Hydrated and Don't Sit Too Long

On a long flight, you may be tempted to stay seated as much as possible. That's not a good idea, especially on flights longer than four hours. Sitting for more than four hours at a time in cramped quarters increases the risk of blood clots in the legs. Blood clots are dangerous because they can break off and travel to your lungs, where they can be deadly.

Drink water on your flight, since dehydration increases the risk of blood clots, and don't guzzle coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages. They're mild diuretics that'll send you running to the bathroom. Get up and move around at least every 30 minutes to get the blood circulating again and reduce the risk of clotting. If possible, wear compression stockings to lower the risk of blood clots even more.

Relax With Music

Long flights can be stressful, especially if you have any fear of flying. Bring along some earplugs and play classical or New Age music on your mobile device to help you relax, but don't turn on the music until after you've listened to the in-flight instructions.

Don't take medications to relax or drink alcohol even if you fear flying. You'll need to be alert should the flight attendant or pilot give instructions. Wear loose-fitting clothing and flat shoes that are as comfortable as possible. Bring along a favorite pillow to make things feel homier.

Come Prepared

If you take medications, make sure you have them with you and that you're wearing a Medic-Alert bracelet if you have a health problem. See your doctor before taking a long flight to make sure you're in good health. Bring along a bag of healthy snacks like protein bars, especially if you have problems with low blood sugar or you're diabetic. The food they serve on board some flights isn't healthy, so it's important to have a backup if it's something you can't eat.

The Bottom Line?

Whether it's cold and flu season or any other time you're on a plane, take precautions to avoid illness so you'll feel your best when you reach your destination.

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family physician who practiced full-time for 12 years. After being bitten by the writing bug, she now spends a portion of her time helping other people develop healthier lifestyle habits that will keep them free of disease and, hopefully, prolong their lives.


  • Search over 1,000,000 properties at once We search thousands of flights to find you the best deal
  • Powered by
  • Guests (2)
  • Adults (1)
  • Children (0)