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How To Avoid Catching The Flu On An Airplane

January 22, 2019


We are at the peak of flu season. If you're traveling over the next few months, you may be concerned about coming down with something. That's because a sick passenger or crew member can easily spread influenza, so you should know how to avoid catching the flu on an airplane. 

A study in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" found a sick passenger can infect at least one person per flight. But if that sick person is moving around the cabin, the risk of infecting other people goes up. The same study found a sick crew member, for instance, can infect nearly five people per flight. 

If you do have to take a flight in the near future, you don't have to cancel it. Here's some tips on how to avoid catching the flu on an airplane.

Pick a Window Seat

Researchers say people in window seats avoid contact with people moving around the cabin who could cough or touch people in aisle seats.  If you do get a window seat, you can also sit still.  Not moving around reduces your exposure to other people who may be sick.

Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands with soap and warm water as often as possible. Also limit contact with communal areas, like door handles and arm rests. This applies to the plane and the airport. 

Prepare a Travel Health Kit

Include items in your kit that might be helpful if you get sick, including

  • Tissues
  • Pain reliever or fever reducer
  • Alcohol-based hand rub.

Using a sanitizing gel (60 percent alcohol) on your hands before eating or drinking anything on a plane is a good idea. You should also do it after washing your hands in the plane lavatory, just in case an infected person touched the door handle.


Get Pre-Travel Health Care

It's not just about flu--you may need to get other vaccines or medicines to help you stay healthy on your trip. Check the CDC Travelers' Health website for health information about your destination.

Follow Simple Health Steps

Knowing how to avoid catching the flu on an airplane often starts by following some simple health tips. Do things like:

    • Cover your coughs or sneezes with a tissue, or your upper sleeve, not your hands.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Get a flu shot.
Another thing to keep in mind is that longer flights may increase your risk. If you're able to stick to shorter flights for the next few months, it may help.

Travel Only When You Feel Well

If you think you have the flu or otherwise feel ill, delay your travel plans until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicines. Even if it means missing out on your plans, staying away from others when you're sick can help protect everyone's health.

Our guide: "How to Get of the Flu or Not Get It At All" may also help. Inside you'll find more tips on how to avoid the flu on an airplane, or on the ground.