Traveling for the Holidays? Try These Tips to Stay Healthy on an Airplane

Cut your chances of getting sick while flying this holiday season with these must-try tips.

Photo: Art Marie / Getty Images

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It’s going to be an exciting holiday season for travel, with many families and friends reuniting this year after being apart in 2020. But even as rates of vaccinations and boosters rise, the pandemic is far from over, and we all need to continue acting responsibly to protect ourselves, our families, and the vulnerable people in our communities. And even if it weren’t for COVID-19, many of us have experienced catching a cold or flu while on vacation, which can be a real bummer for your plans. These tips, along with following relevant protocols and medical advice, can help you stay healthy on an airplane and wherever your travels take you.

Pack your hand sanitizer

Research published in BMC Infectious Diseases found that the greatest number of airport germs lurk in those gray plastic bins in the security line. In fact, they found viruses on 10 percent of all the surfaces they tested. Yikes!

Arm your system

Start taking 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C several days before your trip, advises Elizabeth Trattner, acupuncture physician and certified integrative medicine practitioner in Miami. She also recommends a probiotic to help fight off infections. “Take a nondairy product with eight or more different strains of bacteria and at least 25 billion units of bacteria,” she says.

Wrap up

“Your mucous membranes dry out in airplanes where the humidity is low and there isn’t a lot of fresh air,” Trattner says. “Keeping those membranes warm and moist helps minimize germs, bacteria and viruses from entering your respiratory system.” Pack a scarf in to wrap over your mask and around your neck during flight.

Flex while flying

Keep blood from pooling in your legs by standing up and walking the aisles when allowed (but only when the seatbelt sign is off! Flight attendants have enough to worry about without you wandering when you have to be seated!) You also can stretch in your seat, says Javier Ibarra, a Las Vegas–based doctor of physical therapy. Do head rolls, shoulder stretches, ankle rolls and the like.


Dehydration makes you more susceptible to illness, so avoid caffeine and alcohol both on land and in the air, and drink lots of water if you want to stay healthy on the airplane, Trattner says.


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