Stay healthy and hydrated during airplane travel

Healthy airline travel
Stay healthy when traveling by fighting dry air.

Dry winter air is a problem. It leads to dry skin, irritated sinuses, and can increase your susceptibility to illness.

You probably notice it this time each year in the form of itchy skin, a scratchy nose or throat, and irritating static shocks. The uncomfortable air is caused by dry winter weather and compounded by the heating systems in your home, office, and vehicle that zap moisture from the air.

It’s somewhat simple to combat dry air in your home or office using a humidifier. But it’s not so easy during airplane travel, where humidity levels can drop as low as 10-20 percent. (For comparison, the Sahara has an average humidity level of 25%.)

This is true for airplanes any time of year, not just the winter. And the unpleasant environment is caused, in part, by the airplane’s air filtration system. To replace the carbon dioxide created by the passengers, crew, and machinery, the plane cycles in air from outside the plane.

At high altitudes, the air is very thin and very dry. So that means the oxygen coming into the plane to keep the air breathable is also causing your sinuses and skin to dry up. (It’s a fair trade-off, true, but that doesn’t mean the dry skin isn’t annoying.)

To add to the problem, airplanes are an easy place to get sick, especially during the winter. Hundreds of people sitting elbow-to-elbow, fresh off of trips to the mall and time spent with sniffling family members.

Getting sick on the plane is the last thing you want. So let’s talk solutions. Try some of these simple ways to avoid the pain of dry air inside the cabin and give yourself a fighting chance against the illness-spreading plane environment.

Drink Water

Here’s one you know–drink water to stay hydrated. If you didn’t bring your own bottle, make sure to order a water when the beverage cart comes by. Often times the flight crew will make a trip through the cabin with glasses of water about halfway through the flight, so don’t pass up that chance for hydration.

Worried about going to the bathroom too often? Don’t be. A trip to the bathroom is a good sign of hydration, and it gives you a chance to stretch out and get your blood flowing on long flights.

Avoid Salty Snacks and Alcohol

On the same carts where you’ll find the good stuff (water), you’ll also have the temptations of salt and booze. The free pretzels and peanuts are loaded with salt that can further dehydrate you. And even if the beer or mixer makes the cramped flight a little easier to manage, it also sets you up for a dry nose and throat. If you can, avoid these. (And skip the sugary soda, too.)

Carry On Lotion

After hydrating your insides with water, you can also add some moisture to the outside with lotions and lip balms. Just make sure the bottles are under 3.4 ounces. Anything larger will be taken by airport security.

Nasal Spray

A dry nose is irritating wherever you are, and a bloody nose is definitely not ideal on an airplane. If this is a concern for you, consider a saline nasal spray. They’re available over-the-counter and are formulated to mimic the natural moisture that’s created by your body. As a courtesy to your fellow passengers, it’s a smart idea to do this in the bathroom after the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign.

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