Infectious Disease

Holidaymakers are seven times more likely to catch a cold if they travel by air, according to scientists. As many as one in five passengers develops a cold within a week of flying because of bacteria and viruses in the recycled air of the cabin. But catching a cold may be the least of a traveller’s worries. Other airborne infections which can be transmitted between passengers include tuberculosis, influenza (flu), measles, mumps and chicken pox.

Recycled Air. The air is recycled on aircraft and usually consists of 50% fresh and 50% stale air. Boeing Flight Manual. Lufthansa have a mixture of 60% fresh air and 40% recycled whereas other airlines like B.A. have 50-50 or 60-40 of recycled air.
Bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses like colds flu and pneumonia become airborne when passengers talk cough or sneeze. A cough produces 100,000 particles that can be dispersed over 20 rows in the cabin. This was shown in a study by Boeing and Pall Cabin Filters Brochure 1999.
Transmission of Disease in flight. Influenza epidemics follow major air routes. The Centres for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia has proved that tuberculosis can be transmitted to passengers through the air conditioning. Kenyon T.A. et al (1996). Transmission of multi-drug resistant mycobacterium during a long aeroplane flight. New England Journal of Medicine 4,334. Testimony before subcommittee on Aviation U.S. Senate 1989 Robertson G.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.(SARS) As with all infectious diseases,prevention can be controlled by frequent washing of hands. Be alert to symptoms of fever,dry cough,shortness of breath,headache and muscular stiffness.If a respiratory mask is worn the risk of infection can be reduced.
Gastro-enteritis. Two incidents of gastro-enteritis occurred on a Britannia Flight that affected 46% and 38% of passengers on short flights from U.K. to Europe. The virus was spread directly from person to person and through air conditioning. Public Health Laboratory Services (1997) Donnely m. et al. An investigation of gastrointestinal illness among airline passengers.
Insecticides (Permethrin). All visitors to Australia are sprayed with pesticides that can cause health problems for passengers with allergies, chemical sensitivities, asthma and other respiratory problems. The pesticide is sprayed either directly into a cabin with passengers onboard or unoccupied cabins are treated with long-lasting residual chemicals. U.S. Consumer Report. Jan 1999. Travel letters


Condition Jetlag is one of the most common words associated with aviation. Most passengers experience it after trips of over 3 hours either East or West. The main cause of jetlag is the disruption of the body’s circulation rhythms or more commonly known as our 24 hour clock. Another contributory factor is the oxygen lack in the pressurized cabin.

First Report Wiley Post, the U.S. pilot who went round the world in eight days was the first to recognize the condition in 1931.

Symptoms Jetlag affects people in different ways and to different degrees. The common symptoms are extreme fatigue resulting in diminished mental and physical performance, insomnia, stomach upsets, irregular menstrual cycles, aches and pains, irritability, sleep disruption and disorientation.

Effects Mental decrements include 15% deterioration in logical reasoning and decreased performance levels in arm strength (8%), sprint times (10%), elbow flexor strength (13%) and lift and carry tasks (9%). Some 50% of passengers reported sleep difficulties and it take three days to recover to carry out simple calculations and up to five days for complex ones.

Prevention The best methods involve using synchronizers, such as sleep, daylight and eating patterns to reset the body clock. For example, eat little on board and on arrival synchronize with local mealtime. Stay up as long as possible and expose yourself to daylight. Psychological cues include setting your watch to destination time on departure and ignoring home time while you are away.

Melatonin is a hormone that helps to synchronize the body, but it has not been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can help your brain recover faster by also taking Alpha-GPC

Latest remedy Jetskins is a body-molded compression garment that covers the lower half of the body. Research has shown that It improves performance by reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and increasing muscle co-ordination. Jetskins also helps reduce dehydration, leg and foot swelling, and encourages blood flow. “Since I started wearing Skins for travel and post-game recovery, I feel fresher, stronger and recover faster,” said Steve Waugh, Australian Test Captain.

Reference: http://trackmystack.comĀ 

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Welcome to our site on healthy flying.

It is unique and provides information on all aspects of air travel and health from research studies, pregnant passengers, DVT, jetlag and news stories to a Medical Centre for health professionals, a seat pitch table and a shop with health products for air travellers.

There are risks in all walks of life, including air travel and we offer precautionary measures.