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How to not get sick on an airplane
Photo: Laura Vinck/Unsplash
Air Travel

How to *not* get sick on a plane

What you call crazy, I call smart.

by Rebecca Willa Davis | 01.28.2019

It’s said that there’s nothing like travel to test a relationship, but honestly the first time I ever got the wait-who-are-you? look from my boyfriend was before the plane even took off. It was our first trip together and I was midway through what I’ve dubbed My Routine.

Everyone’s got their own routine, but My Routine—which I strictly follow every time I board an airplane or train car—has been carefully honed over the years with the sole goal of not getting sick while I travel.

That sounds straightforward, but as anyone who has ever, say, sat through a transatlantic flight with a sneezing seatmate knows, the simplest plans are often the ones that go array.

My Routine—which I strictly follow every time I board an airplane or train car—has been carefully honed over the years with the sole goal of not getting sick while I travel.

Which might explain my obsession (compulsion? Tic?) with completing My Routine from top to bottom. It takes no more than two minutes but leaves me feeling a bit more confident that my immune system will be up to the task of fighting off even the most determined of germs.

Of course, My Routine couldn’t exist without a strong supporting cast; the number one thing that will help you not get sick while on-the-go is logging those zzz’s. (Don’t take my word for it–studies have found a strong connection between sleep and immune function.) There’s also much to be said about prepping your body before you even leave the house, like brewing up an immunity-boosting elixir to sip on while binging on The Good Place. (Not speaking from experience, nope.)

But when it comes to game time—the in-transit part where things are a bit more out of my control—these are the five steps I always take to ensure that I stay healthy (albeit with the occasional SO eye roll) while traveling.

Step 1: The Wipe Down

If I had to name a desert island item, it might be a pack of lavender-scented antibacterial wipes. (Okay, and almond butter.) I keep a pack in my suitcase—yes, even in between trips—just to ensure that I’ve always got some on me, because they’re that important.

Before I sit down at my seat, out come the wipes. I’ll aggressively wipe down my arm rests, my seat-belt buckle, my tray table, my TV screen, and anything else I might be touching. (They also come in handy when you first check in to a hotel room, but that’s a whole other routine.)

Besides doing the type of cleaning that we know the airplanes aren’t really performing themselves (after all, a flight attendant told The Glassy so), it leaves my seat with a subtle-but-calming lavender fragrance that is about as close to a relaxing, spa-like experience as flying will ever get.

Step 2: The Good Germ Spray

This is the point in My Routine where my boyfriend began pretending that he didn’t know me. Years ago I was sent BetterAir probiotic spray to test out, and it’s quickly become a constant travel companion. Just as it’s recommended to get good bacteria into your system—whether through probiotic supplements, bottles of kombucha, or good old-fashioned yogurt—the same goes for our environmental spaces.

So a probiotic spray is making sure that the fabric we’re sitting on, the materials surrounding us, and even the air we’re breathing isn’t just full of the nasty bacteria (and, on most airplanes, harmful chemicals from the commercial cleaners they use).

In the same way a thirteen-year-old boy might douse himself with Axe body spray, I’ll spritz my probiotic on my chair and my tray table, giving it a moment to absorb and dry before I sit down.

Step 3: The Hand Spray

Once I’m in my seat and buckled in, it’s time for a proper hand cleaning. Hand sanitizer on an airplane? In the words of Miranda Priestly: groundbreaking, I know. But in case you’re looking for one that does the job without drying out your hands, my recommendation is Jao’s Hand Refresher or Everyone’s Hand Sanitizer.

Step 4: The Shot

I don’t wait until the beverage cart is brought around to break into something—and by something I mean a wellness juice shot.

The exact contents vary; ginger, turmeric, cayenne, oil of oregano…I’ve tried a slew of shots, and I’ll pack whatever one-ounce bottle I can get my hands on ahead of a flight. Hello, super concentrated dose of immunity-boosting powerhouse ingredients. (If you don’t have a favorite juice spot that serves these up to-go, the nearest Whole Foods is always a good bet.)

Because this is an integral step in My Routine, I’d sooner ditch my mini bottle of shampoo to make space in my TSA-approved liquids bag than leave my wellness shot at home. But if that’s a little too intense for you (or there’s no way you’re about to ditch your Sisters travel-sized bottles for a Juice Press Rehab Shot), I know a slew of seriously reliable wellness insiders who swear by ginger tea and chews mid-air.

Step 5: The Nose Spray

The big finale of My Routine? Spraying salt water up my nose.

To be honest, this is one of the more recent steps of my routine–in part because there’s truly nothing that will get you side-eyes and stares like sticking a nozzle up your nose. But time after time, friends of The Glassy kept talking up in-transit neti pots and alkaline liquid sprays. (Sian Gordon of Love Yoga once even told me, “I think blowing salt water up your nose is the key to health and vitality.”) And after a trip that had me battling a near-infection thanks to epically dry sinuses, I decided that maybe this wasn’t something to just sniff at.

So for my next flight I packed a bottle of NeilMed Nasa Mist Saline Spray, gave up all pretension of coolness, and just went for it. Yes, I sprayed salt water up my nose while at my seat—and I felt great.

And yes, my relationship survived that trip.

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