Most everyone is familiar with the fact that planes use recycled air, which significantly increases the likelihood that you will encounter germs each time you fly. However, did you know that colds may be more than 100 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than during normal daily life? In addition to the shared air and close quarters, however, there is another likely culprit for why people tend to catch a cold following a flight: extremely low cabin humidity.
Most airlines fly at an elevation between 30,000 and 35,000 feet, where the humidity levels run at approximately ten percent or lower. To put this into perspective, the Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest place on earth and boasts a humidity level of around ten percent. The low humidity levels cripple the natural defense system of mucus in our noses and throats, which creates an environment much more available for germs.
- Stay hydrated. Not only will drinking lots of water counter the symptoms associated with dehydration, but it will also counter the dehydrating effects on you sinuses and reduce the likelihood that you will catch a cold. It’s suggested that sipping water is a more effective method of maintaining your protective system during the flight than downing larger amounts of water before or during the flight. Nasal mists and hot drinks are also effective methods for keeping your defenses strong and functioning during the flight.
- Keep your hands clean. Scientific studies have proven that viruses can live for hours on your skin or other objects like armrests or tray tables. The simple act of washing your hands with soap and hot water, however, is a formidable defense against the transfer of germs.
- Dental hygiene. Use a germ-killing mouthwash in-flight to keep your throat moist and provide further protection against the transmission of germs.
- Take vitamins. While the rapid response effect of taking vitamins has not been proven, many frequent fliers swear by them. While there is no conclusive evidence that proves vitamins will ward off illness, it is believed that large doses of Vitamin C will reduce the severity and duration of your symptoms.
- Wear a face mask. Airborne germs are one of the top two sources of virus infection. For this reason, some travelers have taken to wearing a face mask or face gator to ward off infection or if they, themselves, are sick.