How to stay healthy on an airplane

Infectious disease specialist at South Nassau Communities Hospitals Dr. Aaron Glatt discusses the health concerns travelers face in the air and how they can protect themselves


Most Americans are aware that there are possible health concerns attributed to flying on an airplane, but what are the true dangers that we should watch out for? One viewer sent us this question:

Q: I hear lots of horror stories about health risks on airplanes. What are the potential dangers and how can I protect myself?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are a host of health concerns that air travel poses, ranging from mild to severe. Possible threats can include the common cold or more serious illnesses like tuberculosis. To get a more concrete idea of what you should watch out for and how to keep yourself healthy, reached out the Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious disease specialist at South Nassau Communities Hospital.

Since most planes are relatively poorly ventilated, Glatt said that if the person seated next to you is coughing and sneezing it would be in your best interest to move to another seat to avoid catching that cold or flu.

Glatt also said that while there have been reports of people contracting serious diseases like tuberculosis on a flight, the chances are small.

“I would be more concerned about the food and water that you’re drinking on a plane,” Glatt said. The likelihood of getting a food-borne illness rises if a plane has been taxiing for a while or if the refrigeration is not functioning correctly. Again, while the chances are low, it is something to be aware of.

Glatt also recommends that fliers get out of their seats and stretch – especially in the case of a long flight – to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The Mayo Clinic defines DVT as a blood clot that forms in the deep veins in your body. Sitting for long periods of time prevents the calf muscles from contracting which helps blood circulate. In cases of poor circulation, clots can form, break free and potentially get lodged in the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism.

Be safe, be smart and enjoy your flight!