Why do you always catch a cold on a plane?

Are you one of those people who always catch a cold when they’ve been on a long flight? It’s well documented that airplane cabins are an excellent place for the cold virus to live. But why is this and what can you do to combat the effects of germs?

Many people believe that you’re more likely to catch a cold on flights because of the re-circulated cabin air. However, this isn’t actually true. Fresh air is constantly being drawn into the cabin. As this is pressurised and then cooled down before passing through filters, most of the germs are removed. Air is also released through vents so it doesn’t remain in the cabin for the whole flight.

But if it’s not the re-circulated air that’s to blame, why do you catch colds after flights? A study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that the most likely causes were the close proximity of other people, shared air and the low humidity within cabins. At high altitudes the humidity inside reduces, which causes your natural mucus defences within your nose and throat to dry up. According to Gareth Hampson from online pharmacy Clear Chemist, planes are excellent breeding grounds for germs. “Germs can live for up to three hours on surfaces such as arm-rests, tables and seats. As your body’s natural defences are reduced, it becomes easier to catch a cold.”

Most people can’t avoid travelling on planes, so how can you limit your chances of becoming ill? One of the best ways of keeping your body healthy is to drink plenty of water. Not only will this keep you hydrated, but it also prevents your defence systems from drying up as quickly. Make sure you drink small amounts regularly, both before and during the flight and avoid caffeine and alcoholic drinks.

Hopefully, next time you’re on a flight you’ll be more aware of the germs and how you can avoid getting ill, so you’ll arrive at your destination fit and healthy.