Here are some carefully-curated tips and advice for hygiene & feeling well aboard a plane to ensure an enjoyable flight experience.
If you think that smells might affect your flight experience negatively, prepare in advance. Avoid the seats within near proximity to the restrooms by researching the layout of the plane and trying to choose one well away from the loo. Further, for long flights, anticipate your fellow travelers’ desire to possibly get comfortable and remove their shoes, potentially releasing some malodor into the air. The best way to do this is to perhaps rub some strong-scented lotion or oil above your upper lip, right under your nose; some effective options include Vick’s VapoRub (or similar mentholated ointments) or an aromatic lotion, such as lavender.
Wash your hands
It should go without saying, but I know sometimes I don’t wash my hands before every meal. However, on a plane, you absolutely must. Everything aboard a plane is filthy, from your armrest, to the in-flight entertainment device, to the tray table, to the bathroom sink faucet.
Wipe things down
We know that everything aboard the plane is contaminated beyond measure (well, it’s been measured, but it’s filthy). A good idea is to bring onboard some kind of disinfectant wipe, so that you can wipe down the surfaces your will be familiar with for the next few hours. Start with the entertainment device on the seatback in front of you, since countless greasy hands have poked away at the screen prior to you. Then, wipe down the tray table, the handle, the armrests, and the seat (if it’s leather). You won’t obliterate the germs, but it will help significantly reduce their unseen presence, and give you peace of mind to boot.
Don’t touch your face
You should avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or face in general. Touching your mouth and nose are prime ways to spread germs and viruses, whether you’re in flight or not; the increased presence of germs and bacteria onboard an aircraft makes it exponentially more inevitable that you get some sort of disease or infection. One of the most-recommended ways doctors advocate to stave off the flu virus is to avoid touching your nose and mouth, so you can be sure that it is ever more relevant during a flight.
Keep your stomach happy
An upset stomach is one of the quickest ways to ruin your flight experience, and the travels beyond that. Just because you are on vacation, it doesn’t mean that you can throw caution to the wind. Avoid spicy and acidic foods, so that you won’t have a sour stomach during your flight. Read more about ways you can keep your stomach happy in this article: How to Keep Your Stomach Happy While Traveling Abroad
Opt for contacts over glasses
If you’re not blessed with perfect vision, it’s a good idea to forego the contact lenses aboard a flight and use your glasses instead. Cabin air during a flight is notoriously dry, and can make contacts dry out and become uncomfortable, especially after a nap. Also, though you shouldn’t touch your face or rub your eyes, you might do so anyway, which is much worse when you are wearing contacts.
Don’t drink the water
Plane water is disgusting. Studies have shown that water that comes from the tap aboard planes often contain disease-causing organisms and even fecal matter. That means there’s shit in the water. Don’t go to the bathroom and drink any of that water from the tap, and don’t brush your teeth with it; wait until you get to the airport for that, if you must. Also, avoid cold drinks that are made onboard the plane, or even some of the hot ones, like coffee and tea, as it is brewed with this same tap water. Try to stick with beverages that come in a bottle or can, and never get ice, either; ice is made with the tap water, as well.
Staying hydrated during a flight is important because the air in the pressurized cabins is at lower-than-normal humidity, which causes dry throats and dehydration. Maintaining an electrolyte balance is also important, and drinks like Gatorade are great for this. Dehydration and the hours of inactivity together make for an easy way to get blood clots, so always hydrate effectively. Alcohol and caffeine both increase the chances of dehydration, so try to limit those substances, as well. Just remember not to drink that tap water!
Though plane cabins are pressurized, it is still more taxing on the lungs than normal environments. Breathing is more labored, because there’s less oxygen available in the air. What many people are not aware of is the fact that cabins in aircraft are only pressurized to a 3,000 to 8,000 ft. elevation to minimize costs, meaning that the air pressure and density is similar to altitudes at those heights. Though it is much better than the actual altitude of the aircraft, it is still more laborious on most passengers than what they’re used to. Also, the humidity in a plane cabin is much lower than a comfortable ground environment, such as at home, school at work; aircraft cabins generally keep the humidity at about 10% to 25%, which is 10% to 25% lower than a comfortable environment below. The best thing to do is to breathe, slowly and deeply, whenever you think about it. To avoid air getting trapped in the sinus cavities and ears, swallow or chew gum.
Get up every now and then to walk around the plane; staying sedentary for hours as we do on planes has many risks that we tend to not think about. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sitting on a plane for 4 hours or more doubles the risk of developing a blood clot. The longer we sit still, the more it impedes the body’s circulation of blood, which tends to pool in the legs.
Avoid the Sugar & Caffeine
Especially if you’re prone to anxiety from flying or otherwise, it is a good idea to avoid drinking sugary or caffeinated beverages during or immediately prior to a flight. Drinks with a high amount of either substance can spike nervousness, even for the traveler who is normally not so susceptible to its anxiety-increasing effects.
I often make the mistake, when leaving New York City in the winter to a warmer climate, say the Caribbean, perhaps, of stowing my jacket or not even bringing one on the trip; it’s hot and humid at my destination, so why should I lug an inconvenient coat that I’ll most-likely not use anyway? Well, the main reason is that airlines tend to opt for colder temperatures inside the cabin. When you first board, it might feel refreshing, but after hours of sitting still and dealing with it, the cold air is bound to get to you. The best idea is to at least bring an easily-removable layer, such as a light coat or button-up, long-sleeved shirt, which can be taken off and put on easily.
Freshen up before landing
As the plane starts making its descent towards the airport, consider taking out a baby wipe or some other wet cloth to dab the sweat and icky-feeling off your face. For some reason, plane travel, even short-haul flights, have the curious quirk of leaving a distinct shine on your skin – but not a nice one. A baby wipe goes a long way to making you feel fresh, as well as waking you up as you begin to land.