Business Travel 101: How to Avoid the Airplane Cold

14 March 2017
Read Time: 3.7 mins

The common cold is a pesky ailment that you try to avoid in the best of times, but it seems like every time you travel you get sick. It's a common occurrence that effects many travellers, particularly if you don't take steps to avoid it ...  

A glass of water on an airplane tray table Skip sugary caffeinated drinks and alcohol when flying as these tend to dehydrate the body

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Did you know that humidity levels in a typical airplane cabin at 30,000 feet run at approximately 10 to 15 per cent? That's lower than most deserts, but it comes with cruising at high altitudes. This bone dry air causes the body's natural defences (mucus in our noses and throats) to dry up, making it easier for germs to infect us. Luckily there is a way to combat this dryness and it's super simple. Drink a lot of water. Sipping water continuously throughout the flight can keep those defences up and help stave off unwanted germs. It's also a great way to combat the effects of jet lag if you're on a long haul flight.  

A woman washing her hands Wash your hands and avoid touching your face to ward off common cold germs

Wash Your Hands

Another basic rule of thumb that's super easy (and just as easy to forget), washing your hands is perhaps the best ways to stay healthy. Countless studies have shown that your hands are generally the first point of contact with common cold germs. One second you're touching your tray table and the next you're rubbing your eye.  A day or two later, you're infected. Washing your hands with hot water and soap can drastically cut down the spread of these germs. Of course there are times when you're on board that aren't conducive to hopping up to wash your hands. Toss a small bottle of anti-bacterial hand gel in your carry-on and try avoid touching your face.  

A person reaching for their air vent on an airplane Opening your air vent creates a current to push airborne germs away from you

Open Your Air Vent

When it comes to environmental changes you can make while flying, opening your air vent is just about the only option you have. Luckily it can be a helpful tool in avoiding germs. You may be thinking that having recycled cabin air blowing on you is only making the situation worse; however, the reality is that expertly designed air filtration systems capture up to 99.99 per cent of small bacteria and viruses. Rest assured that little stream of air isn't actually blowing germs on you, but it is creating enough current to keep those airborne germs from coughing and sneezing fellow passengers away from you.  

A tray table on an airplane Wipe down your tray table to help stave off unwanted germs

Clean Your Tray Table

In the rush to turn around flights as quickly as possible, cleaning crew don't often have the time to give the plane a thorough scrub down before you sit down for your flight. This means that the tray table and seatback pocket often end up harbouring germs. If you can, avoid using the seatback pocket all together. And when it comes to mealtime, give your tray table a good wipe down. Savvy travellers always carry a travel pack of anti-bacterial wipes in their carry-on especially for this purpose, but if you don't have any, a damp napkin can be used in a pinch. You should also try to avoid eating directly off the tray table.  

A person sleeping on a plane Sleep is one of the best ways to keep the body's immune system in fighting form

Rest Up

Last but certainly not least, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is another effective defence in warding off sickness. This is often easier said than done when it comes to business travel as long flights and busy schedules can interfere with your normal sleep patterns, but skipping sleep hampers the power of your immune system as it blocks the body from producing proteins called cytokines that help stave off illness. Not only does this make you more likely pick up a bug, but it also makes it more difficult for your body to get well. Each person is different when it comes to optimal sleeping patterns. Just make sure you listen to your body and give yourself enough time to rest up when travelling for work. 

Carlie Tucker

Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.

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