5 Airplane Travel Health Tips

Do you like to travel? If you or your loved are among the millions of people that do, here are some tips for safe and healthy flights (and some are good for other long-distance travelers too):

  • Protect yourself from Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)! Sitting without moving around puts airline passengers at an increased risk of blood clots. These clots become life-threatening if a piece of the clot travels and blocks a main artery of the lungs (pulmonary embolism). Anyone could develop a DVT, but it is more common among older travelers, passengers on long flights, pregnant women, people who are overweight, those who have had surgery recently, and women taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. To reduce your risk of blood clots, avoid crossing your legs, wear loose clothing, walk around and stretch your feet and ankles throughout the flight, wear compression stockings, stay hydrated (more water, less alcohol & sugary beverages), and stretch out your legs (remove items under the seat in front of you).
  • Carry any medications that you are taking and your medical insurance card in your carry-on luggage. This is important in case your checked luggage is lost or delayed.
  • If you are traveling internationally, research health-related conditions in the country that you are visiting. Be sure that your immunizations are current.
  • Delay your travels if you recently had a concussion, significant sinus congestion, serious respiratory illness, a colonoscopy, abdominal, cardiac, orthopedic, or neurosurgery, surgery on a lower extremity, or extensive dental work. For these conditions, in-flight pressure changes can lead to significant discomfort and/or serious medical complications. For medical reasons, experts recommend that you cancel your trip if you are more than 36 weeks pregnant, or plan to travel with a baby who is less than 2 days old. If you are planning to travel with a cast, the injured area may swell or hurt during the flight; ask your physician for a splint or soft cast, and be sure to keep the limb elevated while on the plane. If you are considering canceling or postponing your flight due to illness, talk to an airline representative. Some companies will waive change/cancellation fees under certain emergency situations if you send them a doctor’s note. Purchasing travel insurance while booking your trip often covers the cost of changes due to sickness.
  • Those with common contagious illnesses who are hesitant to cancel their flight should take precautions to prevent spreading their sickness to other passengers. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands, drink water to remain hydrated, and cover your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing. Consult a physician if you have any questions.

Airplane Travel Health Tips

All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff.