There are several other steps you can take. Zimring, author of “Healthy Travel: Don’t Travel Without It,” says it’s important get enough sleep, eat healthfully, exercise and get a flu shot to build up immunity before traveling. Gendreau suggests the following to stay healthy while flying:
Drink up. Proper hydration is critical to optimal immune function. Given that the relative humidity in a passenger cabin can be as low as 10 percent on long flights, it’s essential to drink as much water while in the air as possible; avoiding alcohol will help, too. Staying well hydrated can also help prevent mild altitude sickness, with symptoms such as headache, lightheadedness and nausea, which people often mistake for a post-flight cold or flu.
Pack a hand sanitizer. Soap and water do a great job, but the restroom’s sink handle, soap dispenser and doorknobs may be contaminated with germs. So use alcohol-based sanitizer after leaving the restroom and throughout the rest of your flight. And think twice before you rub, scratch or otherwise pat your face (or a child’s) during a flight; those simple acts can provide ample opportunity for the transmission of bacteria and viruses.
Be wary about that tray. Air carriers with flight turnover times of less than an hour do not routinely disinfect the trays or other surfaces such as the armrests and windows. So wipe them down with an alcohol-based sanitizer when you first take your seat.
Keep the air turned on at your seat. When people cough, sneeze or speak, they eject up to 30,000 droplets, which can travel several feet. To minimize the chance of infected droplets landing on you, turn your air vent to medium flow and position it so that the air current is directed just slightly in front of your face. That will help direct germs away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
As for me, I think I will run with my germaphobic tendencies from now on, forbidding floor snacks, slathering sanitizer on both my children and wiping down our immediate surroundings as soon as we board. The travel might not be happier — for me or for my fellow passengers — but if it’s even slightly more healthful, I think it’s worth it.