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Nearly every time I travel I get sick. I have no doubt it is because I am stuck on a plane breathing recirculated air from 200 other people. Once I had an entire vacation to Venice ruined because I spent the whole vacation lying sick in bed in the hotel.

Is there any way to avoid this? Maybe wear a mask of some kind?

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    Have you considered that you are getting sick, simply because you have decided for yourself that you are getting sick when travelling by plance, and hence expect to get sick? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 21 '17 at 21:04
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    It's worth mentioning that the cabin air on a jet is entirely refreshed with outside air about every two minutes via engine bleed. The idea that the air is continually recirculated is wrong. – MooseBoys Oct 21 '17 at 22:33
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    FYI, it's not recirculated air that's the problem. It's a combination of dry air drying out your sinuses, being in close quarters with other people, and touching stuff that isn't clean (arm rests and, especially, tray tables, for example.) – reirab Oct 22 '17 at 0:54
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    I guess you should ask yourself why the other 200 of us in the plane don't get sick. – Martin Argerami Oct 22 '17 at 5:30
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    @MartinArgerami, Science disagrees with you. People are more likely to get sick on airplanes. "Studies vary, but most show that airline carriers are formidable carriers of the common cold. The Wall Street Journal cited a study that found an increased risk of catching the cold by as high as 20 percent, while another study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that colds may be more than 100 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than during normal daily life on the ground." smartertravel.com/2017/06/19/… – Stephan Branczyk Oct 22 '17 at 11:10
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The moment I started to avoid touching my face, nose, mouth, eyes and ears with my hands I started to have much fewer flu/cold infections. I always use a tissue if I wanted to. As a person who works for an airline and meeting a lot of passengers is a daily routine, this was a big problem for me when I started the job and I find this prevention method to be working perfectly for me.

I know that you see this written everywhere, wash your hands properly, etc.. but it really works. Most infections come from touching something and then "introducing it" to your body by touching your eyes or mouth or so on.

Also, just as an extra step, buy a mask and wear it. I see some passengers doing that from time to time. Keeping a hand anti-bacterial gel is also recommended, just don't over do it.

I personally do not believe in instant immunity boosters (vitamic C and the like), as far as I know it's not proven to work. The best way is to prevent the virus/bacteria from entering the body, not to let it in then depend on a "boosted" immunity system to fight it.

Extra steps specific to aircrafts:

  • Wipe the tray table with something that contains alcohol.
  • Armrests too
  • If you're sitting in a window seat, wipe the window as well. Kids love to stick their runny noses there!
  • After using the toilet, use a tissue to open the door and when closing it. The handle will be a good place for all kinds of bacteria.

Again, these simple methods will provide enough protection. Do not use any advertised immunity booster medicines, keeping the viruses away is the way!

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    Personal hygiene is the most effective for preventing colds/flu. While I'm not familiar with medical studies indicating the effectiveness for short-term vitamin C supplementation in preventing colds/flu, there are studies which indicate a long-term higher level of vitamin D does reduce clods/flu up to 41%. Such levels of vitamin D have also been shown to significantly reduce a wide variety of other medical issues (e.g. cancer, diabetes, MS, etc.) – Makyen Oct 21 '17 at 19:29
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    The immune system is a thing, and it can be boosted... however the bulk of the benefit is to be had in diet and lifestyle choices, e.g. Not running yourself exhausted all the time, exercise, energy work like yoga or Tai Chi, efc. Like Cher says, if it came in a pill, everyone would have a great body. And also mindframe, yes, if you hold the belief that you'll get sick, your body will go "okay then"... Or to be more precise, you'll see it as inevitable and therefore not make a priority out of preventing it... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Oct 21 '17 at 22:14
  • @makyen and Harper, long term techniques for sure will work, I am talking about "instant boosters".. there is magic pill that will make you immune right after taking it. – Nean Der Thal Oct 21 '17 at 22:31
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    For what it's worth, while I agree that it's common to see passengers wearing masks in parts of Asia, it's my experience that it's very uncommon to see in the West (with the exception of passengers visiting from Asia.) – reirab Oct 22 '17 at 1:01
  • @reirab you're right, I changed the wording to be more accurate. – Nean Der Thal Oct 22 '17 at 1:18
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According to this article the air in a plane is quite clean and it is definitely not fully recirculated. However sitting not far away from a sick passenger indeed exposes you to communicable diseases.

Also the airplane air is indeed very dry, which does make some people feel unwell. It is better on the latest planes like Dreamliner, and I do feel the difference flying on them comparing to older planes (especially @#$@ 747-400). Another major route to get sick is through germs spreading via touch - a typical lavatory in a plane could have been touched by 100+ people.

So there are few things you can do:

  • Choose your flight so you're flying on better metal (and especially avoid 747-400) and better seats (business/comfort) if you can;
  • Rest well before the flight. For most people flying is effort for your body, and not rest. Very few people can rest on a flight itself.
  • Carry a small hand sanitizer and use it once you touch something touched by others;
  • To combat dryness in the air, it is recommended to drink a reasonable amount of water and cut down on tea/alcohol (especially alcohol);
  • You can also wear a mask if it helps you to feel better, but it doesn't stop germs.
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    A surgical mask can stop saliva/mucus droplets, so it should help against airborne diseases. It’s also a great way to stop yourself from touching your face. It’s a pity that they are not more common in Europe and even outlawed in e.g. Austria. – Michael Oct 22 '17 at 8:44
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    ...so you're flying on better metal... Actually the Dreamliner is comfortable because it's not metal. The composite airframe allows for moister air. – dotancohen Oct 22 '17 at 11:40
  • "metal" is airline slang term describing the actual plane. – George Y. Oct 22 '17 at 20:25
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    @Michael the only mask certified to do this is "Surgical N95 respirator" which is rather uncomfortable to wear for long time. Regular masks aren't good to stop airborne viruses/bacteria and will only help a bit if you're sitting next to a sneezing person. – George Y. Oct 22 '17 at 20:30
  • According to this article the air in a plane is not clean – gman Oct 23 '17 at 3:38
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It is not the cabin air that is making you sick. Only about half the air injected into the cabin is recirculated and that HEPA filtered. This means all the air in the cabin is changed several times an hour with outside air.

You are probably getting sick from the high common touch points, such as the screening process.

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I had exactly this same problem. Before my flights, I run to the local drug store and grab a box of face masks. You can use gloves if you want - personally, I just wash my hands well when I get off the plane.

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