Fit to Fly

Avoid airborne illnesses

By P. J. Ellison

With March break on the horizon and at least three more months of negative temperatures, Montrealers are feverishly booking flights to anywhere sunny and warm. Of course, airplanes are basically petri dishes with wings: contagious people crammed into a pressure-sealed container recycling its air supply. The odds are against you.

Luckily, we collected some tips from our last winter escapade. “The number one rule for flying is hydration,” says Cathy D, a flight attendant for a major carrier. “We usually drink two liters of water per flight. Adding vitamins and electrolytes is also a good idea.”

Speaking of water, always bring a reusable bottle, says Ms. D. Sure, you can’t pass liquids through security, but an empty water bottle allows you to take advantage of water fountains and helpful flight attendants. “We waste so many plastic cups by giving individual glasses of water that we’d rather fill your big bottle once.”

Hydrate before you even get to the airport. A pressurized cabin can dry out your mucous membrane and make it difficult for you to keep germs from invading. And five beers before landing in London is not hydration. “Basically, any effect from alcohol is doubled in the air,” cautions Ms. D.

What to wear?
Dress for comfort. Something loose and casual works best. And compression socks might not be the crème de couture, but they do work, easing the flow of blood and preventing swelling in legs and feet.

Eye masks and earplugs help block out lights and sounds of a packed aircraft.

Many airlines don’t offer pillows and blankets anymore. A hoodie provides a two-pronged solution: warmth and, when rolled up, a pillow. Otherwise, pack one of those U-shaped pillows to wrap around your neck. This extra support helps avoid any awkward positions once you nod off. 

What to eat?
Bring your own snacks. You never know what kind of food is on board and how much of it will be left by the time the flight attendants get to you in seat 36E. No one ever raves about airline cuisine for a reason.

What to smell?
Essential oils are, well, essential. Lavender helps you sleep and peppermint helps wake you up. Oh, and it helps mask Del Griffith’s foot odour wafting over you from the aisle seat. Suffering from jetlag, migraine or body aches? There’s an essential oil for that.

What to watch?
Bring your own entertainment (books, crossword puzzles, hand puppets) because you never know when the onboard Wi-Fi and mini TVs will be down. Six hours or more is a long time to count clouds.

What to do?
Walk around (when the seatbelt sign is off, of course!) and keep the blood flowing. A good rule is to get up and move about the cabin for at least a few minutes every hour. This will include a trip to the germ closet, er... bathroom.

Speaking of the toilet in the sky, use common sense. Don’t touch anything with your bare hands.


Winter 2019, Vol 11 N°1

Current Issue

Family Issue

Fall 2020
Vol 12 N°4

Click here to view full issue with Issuu

Sabrina Jonas Letter from the Associate Editor

Sabrina Jonas

Sabrina Jonas' signature


The Science of Prevention