Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Fending Off Germs in Flight?

The holiday season is approaching, and I'm going to be traveling a lot to visit relatives. I always seem to pick up a cold or the flu on airplanes. Is there anything I can do to protect myself?

Answer (Published 11/25/2003)

Flying does seem to put us at a higher-than-normal risk for picking up a cold or flu bug. A study last year from the University of California at San Francisco showed that about one in five passengers comes down with a cold within a week of a flight, about four times the risk you would have if you stay home.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Your Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor recommendation today.

Although the airlines deny that the recirculated air in cabins is the problem, flight attendants and other crew members have long complained about air quality and related it to their own physical symptoms - everything from headaches to dizziness and nausea. Cabin air can also be very dry, which makes us more vulnerable to colds and flu by irritating the mucous membranes that act as barriers against the bugs that cause them. And, of course, sitting in close quarters for a few hours can expose you to others who are harboring germs.

Your best defense is to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face. You infect yourself with cold and flu germs by picking them up on your hands when you touch doorknobs and other surfaces and then carry them on your fingers to your mouth, eyes or nose. To keep the mucous membranes in your nose moist and efficient, rub liquid vitamin E into your nostrils or use a saline nasal spray during your flights.

I recommend taking some echinacea (one dropper of the tincture in a little water four times a day) plus an immune boosting tonic such as astragalus help your immune system fight off any infections in the air. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine when flying because both can worsen the dehydration caused by low humidity on planes and make it harder for your body to adjust to time changes. Drink lots of water and, if possible, bring your own pillow or scarf to cover the airline's pillow if you plan to sleep during your flights.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here