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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   2 min read

It’s that time of the year again when thousands will take to the skies next month to return home or take-off to visit family and friends over the holiday season. The dreaded airplane cold can put a real dent in a trip so here’s how to avoid getting sick the next time you travel.

Airplane colds are some of the worst, mostly because we often get them while we’re on holidays and let’s face it, who wants to be sick while on holidays? We’ll tackle why we get sick on planes and how to best avoid contracting a cold on our next flight.

The truth about airplane colds

Travel myth: if someone on a plane is sick, everyone else on that plane will also get sick because of the recycled air inside the cabin.


The air we breathe on a typical aircraft is remarkably sanitary. It is continuously drawn in from outside through compressor stages. These stages compress the cold and thin air from outside until it reaches the same pressure as the air in the cabin. Then it is run through HEPA filters (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) to remove 99.97% of airborne particulates, viruses and bacteria. Through this process the cabin air is refreshed about 20 times an hour.

So no need to pack a face mask the next time you travel but you would be wise to carry a pack of sanitary wipes.

Passengers sitting in aisle seats are most likely to contract something as these seats see the most passenger contact as people walk up and down the aisles, often using the seat head rests to stable themselves as they go along. But its the airplane lavatories that are the real cause. Upwards of 75 people share a single lav on a plane. Washing your hands in that itty-bitty sink may not even be enough as the sink water could also be contaminated.

Spaceship to Thailand

Tip 1: Bring along some hand sanitiser. Use it as often as possible but especially after leaving the lavatory.

Tip 2: You’d be wise to bring along some clorox wipes and give your tray table, arms of your seat, TV remote controls and other surfaces a good wipe down before you settle in for the ride.

Tip 3: Travellers are high-risk to get a cold due to stress, dehydration and jet lag so drink lots of water throughout your journey.

Tip 4: Pack a small travel-sized bottle of mouthwash to use after eating. It’ll kill germs and keep your throat moist.

Tip 5: If you’re not a daily vitamin-taker then start with taking multi-vitamins daily a few days before you fly and continue taking them for a few days after.

What are your tricks for avoiding the airplane cold?

Img: dennis wong, ipdegirl / Flickr cc.

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