Airline Hygiene: Stay Healthy At 35,000 Feet

Airline Hygiene: Stay Healthy At 35,000 Feet

If you're lucky enough to be hopping on a plane soon for a well-deserved holiday, then you will want to arrive healthy and happy. Whether you’re jetting off on a city break, or taking a long-haul flight somewhere tropical, flying can have several negative effects on our bodies. We've compiled a list of inflight practices to keep you in top form at 35,000 feet, so that you can hit the ground running.

But First, What's So Bad About Flying?


One of the biggest changes we face when flying is a decrease in humidity. Cruising aircraft humidity is controlled to around 10-20%, both for human comfort and aircraft safety (1). This is a lot drier than the 30-50% humidity we are used to at home. Cabin air can cause our eyes, nose, and mouth to feel dry, and not only can this lead to bad breath, but dry nasal passages can make you more susceptible to infection of the sinuses.  


Fear of flying is not uncommon and is believed to affect 1 in 10 people. This anxiety may cause several physical symptoms, including increased heart rate, dizziness, sweating and a churning stomach. An elevated heart rate may put nervous flyers at greater risk of dehydration due to increased exhalation of water vapour. Even if you’re not afraid of flying, a recent study revealed that flying can cause anxiety, tension and an increased heart rate due to the combination of in-flight alcohol consumption and hypoxia (2). Hypoxia, a decrease in blood oxygen levels, occurs because of the reduced air pressure at high altitudes.

Sleep Disruption

Not only can the noise, light and uncomfortable seats on planes disrupt sleep, but longer flights often also cause jet lag. Our circadian rhythm, the body's internal clock that controls the sleep-wake cycle, gets thrown off when we switch time zones. This disruption occurs because our internal clock remains synced to our original time zone. As a result, jet lag can affect digestion, mood, and, most significantly, sleep. To minimise jet lag, you should get as much daylight as possible in your new time zone.

Viral Risk

Like any other form of transport, sitting near others with restricted movement makes aeroplanes a breeding ground for infection. Frequently handled surfaces such as seatbelts, tray tables, and armrests can become contaminated with bacteria, increasing our risk of catching a virus or bacterial infection. A 2015 study revealed that plane tray tables had 2,155 bacteria colony forming units per square inch - eight times more than the toilet flush button (3). In addition, you have an 80% chance of catching a bug from someone who is infected and sitting in close proximity to you.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Sitting still on a plane for four hours or more can in some cases cause blood clots in deep veins, known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Getting up for a walk to stretch your legs is therefore a good idea during long-haul flights, as it will improve blood flow back to the heart and minimise the risk of clotting.


Have you ever gone to open a bag of crisps on a flight, only to find the bag all puffed up? During ascent cabin pressure drops, and the gas in the bag expands. The same expansion occurs in our stomachs and can make us feel gassy on a plane. Digestion can also slow down because of the reduced oxygen levels and air pressure on planes, causing constipation in some.

So, Don't Leave Home Without...

You’ve packed your passport, shades, and sun cream, but here are your hand-luggage must-haves to keep you healthy, hydrated, rested and rejuvenated onboard.

Water Bottle

Avoid the dehydration caused by the plane’s low humidity and help prevent constipation by staying hydrated and maintaining gut mobility. You should drink 250ml (about one glass) of water every hour you are in the air. You might want to watch out for plane tap water though, as leading travel expert Ski Vertigo emphasises that aeroplane water tanks are not adequately cleaned and can host a number of dangerous bacteria that can cause serious gastrointestinal issues and infections. So, think twice about ordering that coffee or tea next time you fly, as it may be prepared using the same potentially contaminated tap water; bring your own reusable water bottle that you can fill up after airport security. Cupple is a genius 2-in-1 reusable water bottle and coffee cup for stylish space saving. 

Leapfrog IMMUNE

IMMUNE is a powerful immunity booster to take before, during and after travel. Jessica Diner, Global Director of Beauty and Wellness at Vogue, praises the delicious citrus-flavoured supplements as "amazing to chew while on a flight to defend against circulating germs". Packed with Vitamin C, Zinc and Lactoferrin - a natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory milk protein dubbed a “miracle molecule” by scientists – Leapfrog IMMUNE is your best friend on a flight to fight off unwanted nasties (and kids love them too). 

Moisturiser & Lip Balm

As the dry cabin air can sap moisture from your skin and lips, bringing a moisturiser and lip balm on board is a must. We love Anthea Turner's BALM 6 as it's miraculously six pots in one: cleanser & make up remover, nourishment for brows and lashes, cuticle cream, a face mask (why not? you've got time!), hair smoothing cream and the all-important lip balm. With heavenly ingredients like coconut oil, cocoa butter and cucumber, it's an all-natural, airline self-care saviour.

Leapfrog SNOOZE

We all know jet lag is a real drag, so Leapfrog SNOOZE supplements are an inflight essential to help you relax and drift off on demand. The berry-flavoured chewables contain Vitamin B6, Lactoferrin and hero ingredient Lactium – a natural milk protein hydrolysate that reduces cortisol levels and increases the flow of the soothing neurotransmitter GABA. Inspired by milk drunk babies, the soothing peptides within Lactium are perfect for nervous flyers who struggle to find serenity.  Simply chew a tablet before you want to fall asleep, and another if you wake up at an odd hour. SNOOZE is “my favourite sleep aid” says Dr Max Pemberton in the Daily Mail.

Eye Mask & Ear Plugs

The artificial lighting and noise on planes can make it hard to fall asleep. Using a sleeping mask to block out the light and ear plugs to block out the clinking of cutlery and thrum of the engine will create calm amidst the chaos and help you sleep more peacefully. We like the silkiness of Slip eye masks (and the matching pillow to avoid the dreaded crick neck). The technology behind the Quiet earplugs by Loop manage to muffle unwanted plane noise but in soft-touch silicone for hours of comfort. 

Hand Sanitiser & Wipes

Keeping sanitising gel and wipes handy is a habit to adopt when flying. Wiping down tray tables, armrests, seat belts, and toilet door handles before use can eliminate bacteria that accumulate on these surfaces, which are often not sanitised between flights. Additionally, using hand sanitiser before eating or touching your face helps further protect you from bacteria so that you don’t catch a cold on the plane. Aesop has a rinse-free hand wash that cleans hands so you don’t need to use the plane’s running water. 

Happy - and healthy! - travels!