How can I have a healthy and comfortable flight?

Before your flight

  • Pack well in advance. If you need to take medication, find out if you can take your medicine abroad.
  • If you have children, bring toys, games and books in your hand luggage to entertain them during the flight.
  • If you have a history of travel sickness, read about helpful self-care techniques, or speak to yor pharmacist about medication you can buy over the counter.
  • If you think you are at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), see your GP before you travel. They may recommend wearing compression stockings during your flight.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before your flight.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing on the plane.
  • Check the hand luggage restrictions with your airline, or see the Gov.uk website.
  • Plan your route to the airport. Book train or bus tickets, or car parking. Check the travel news before you leave and allow plenty of time to get to the airport.

During your flight

  • Drink plenty of fluids to ensure you stay well hydrated, but avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee or cola, because they will make you thirstier.
  • Wear glasses instead of contact lenses because the dry air in the aircraft cabin can irritate your eyes if you have contact lenses in.
  • Move around. Sitting still can increase your risk of DVT, so do some simple exercises as you fly. Bend and straighten your legs, press the balls of your feet down hard against the floor, and walk around the cabin when you can. Avoid taking sleeping pills, as these can put you into a deep sleep so you won’t be able to move for a long time.
  • To help prevent jet lag, change your watch to your new time zone when you board the plane, and try to get some sleep during the flight.

Avoid ear trouble

The change in air pressure in the cabin as the plane takes off and lands can be painful as your ears adjust. Yawning, swallowing, sucking a boiled sweet or chewing gum can help. Other tips you could try are:

  • Wake up around an hour before landing so that your ears have time to adjust to the descent.
  • If you’re travelling with a baby, feed them during take-off and landing.
  • It’s not advisable to fly if you have an ear, nose or sinus infection, as the swelling can cause pain, bleeding or a perforated eardrum. If you have to fly, ask your GP or pharmacist about decongestants to help reduce the swelling in your ears.
  • If you’ve recently had any type of ear surgery, check with your GP or specialist before flying.

Air quality in planes

Most planes are fitted with air filters that change the cabin air every few minutes. There’s no evidence that the air conditioning systems in planes spread infectious diseases. You can catch infectious diseases, such as the common cold, simply by sitting or standing near someone who is infected, or by touching an object like a door handle after they have.

Further information:

EHIC: packing for your holiday

Be prepared for your holiday, and make sure you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It costs nothing to apply for or renew an EHIC. For more information call the Overseas Healthcare Team on 0191 218 1999.

Media last reviewed: 22/08/2013

Next review due: 22/08/2015

Page last reviewed: 22/11/2013

Next review due: 21/11/2015