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17 Tricks to Make Your Next Flight Healthier

Updated: Apr. 28, 2022

Stale air, hours of sitting, and close contact with other passengers mean plane rides can take a toll on your body. Here's how to keep healthy in the air.

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Book an early flight

Pick the first flight of the day if your schedule allows. It’s most likely to be on time, meaning you won’t end up with the stress of long delays. Plus, it is the most likely to have been freshly cleaned. Don’t make these annoying airport mistakes next time you fly.

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Pick the right seat

You can only book the exit row seat once you’re at the airport, so arrive two hours early to request the seat change. In case the exit row is already taken, pick an aisle seat when you buy your tickets so you can get up as often as you want without bothering your neighbor. While waiting for your flight, use the extra time to power walk around the airport and get some exercise in. These little travel mistakes add extra stress to your vacation.

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Boost your immune system before you leave

Sitting in stale air with hundreds of other passengers leaves your body notoriously vulnerable to the germs floating around. This is how traveling on a plane can affect your body.

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Sip chamomile

Chamomile tea relaxes you and helps you fall asleep faster, especially if you’re nervous. Tuck a few tea bags in your carry-on, then ask an airline attendant for hot water to steep it in. Check out these facts about flying to help you stay calm next time you’re on a plane.

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iStock/Craig Veltri

Bring a water bottle

Stash an empty reusable water bottle in your bag so that you can fill it at the water fountain or in a restaurant once you’re through security. Once you board, ask a flight attendant to fill your water bottle instead of those tiny cups they hand out.

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Stick with water

Alcohol and caffeine can slightly dehydrate you, which is the last thing you need when you’re stuck in the dry air of a plane. Sip water or herbal tea instead. Here are beauty tricks to prevent dry skin on an airplane.

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Stretch your body hourly

Make sure to get up at least once an hour to stretch out your muscles, which can help prevent DVT and blood clots.  In the aisle, do a reverse lunge, digging into the floor with your back heel. While you’re up, twist your waist gently left and right to stretch out your torso. When you sit back down, lift one arm over your head, then bend your elbow so you can rest your palm against your shoulder blade. Gently pull the stretch deeper with your other hand to stretch your arms, shoulders, and upper back.

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Do frequent mini stretches

Boost your blood flow and prevent stiffness by performing simple stretches every 30 minutes. To stretch your neck, try dropping your chin to your chest, then shaking your head yes and no. Stretch out your calves in your seat by leaving your heels on the floor while you point your toes up as far as possible, holding for a count of three. Then, one foot at a time, make small circles in the air with your feet. Between stretches, check out these tips for falling asleep on a plane.

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Pack healthy snacks

Even if your flight is supposed to be short, be prepared with a few healthy snacks. Delays and the boredom of waiting could make you hungry and irritable, and it’s better to have your own granola bar on hand than to shell out for an overpriced bag of chips in the terminal.

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Keep your ears from popping

During takeoff and landing, avoid discomfort by equalizing the pressure in your middle ear. Try chewing gum, yawning widely, or swallowing forcefully. Don’t miss these secrets your flight attendant won’t tell you.

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iStock/yuran 78

Don’t cross your legs

Crossing your legs could give you pins and needles that make you more uncomfortable than ever. Instead, hunker into your seat by putting your carry-on in front of you and propping your feet on top.

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Take a decongestant

During the 24 hours before takeoff, take a decongestant. Your sinus and ear membranes will shrink, leaving your nose and ears clear when you’re in the air. This is how sleeping during a flight could harm your ears.

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Keep your shoes on

You might think you’ll be comfier with your tootsies free, but resist the temptation to remove your shoes off. Because the air pressure in planes is so low, your feet will start to swell. When you put your shoes back on, they’ll feel tight and uncomfortable. Check out these airplane etiquette rules before your next flight.

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iStock/David Sucsy

Up your aspirin intake

Blood starts to pool in your legs when you sit for long periods of time without getting up. That pooling could lead to a blood clot, which could turn deadly if it travels to your lungs or other vital organs. If your doctor approves, take an aspirin the day before a flight, right before your flight, and for three days after you land to thin your blood and cut your risk of clotting. This is why airplanes are so cold.

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iStock/Xavier Arnau

Use a backpack instead of a suitcase or duffel

Without the need to lift a bag with your hands, it’ll be easier for you to take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. That extra boost of walking time will give you the chance to burn more calories and stretch your legs before you sit down for hours.

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Upgrade your seats

Economy class seats are usually made of fabric, which can be a breeding ground for germs, dust mites, and allergens. On the other hand, business class seats are typically made of more hygienic leather. If you’re worried about irritants and can afford the pricier seats, make the upgrade. These are the best seats on an airplane for every type of need.

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Dress in layers

Goldilocks would probably hate to fly—planes are generally either too hot or too cold, and it can be impossible to predict which one your flight will be. Layer up with a thin T-shirt, sweater, and scarf so you can add and subtract as needed.