8 Things You Should Never Do on an Airplane, According to Physicians

Updated 07/02/19

If we had to make our own list of things that should never be done on an airplane, we'd list not kicking the seat in front of you, being mindful not to hog the arm rests, and, in the name of all that is holy, putting earbuds in if you're watching something on your phone or tablet at the top. But a physician's list might look a bit different, at least as it pertains to your health. Yes, an intrusive seatmate is the pits and a major damper on your mental health, but for your overall physicality, there are several actions you can take to ensure you're staying healthy considering the amount of time you spend seated and the low cabin air pressure.

Below, we've rounded up the most important things physicians want you to stop doing when you're airborne.

Airplane mistakes
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Don't Overdrink

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We know how important it is to stay hydrated in-flight, but when it comes to drinks of the alcoholic variation, you'll want to sip sparingly. Says Mia Finkelston, a board-certified family physician who treats patients virtually via telehealth app, LiveHealth Online, if you're drinking to temper your nerves, doing so could actually make matters worse. "Alcohol consumption can make you more anxious and can cause nausea, which may become exacerbated by a turbulent flight."

Don't Drink Dehydrating Beverages

How much water should you drink on a plane?
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Piggybacking off the alcohol, Elizabeth Houshmand, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Dallas, Texas suggests staying away from coffee and soda, which are dehydrating drinks that can lead to breakouts. She explains that your body loses almost one cup of water for every hour you're in the sky, so supplementing that loss with more water is best.

Don't Fly When You're Sick

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You obviously can't plan for being sick, especially if you booked the flight months in advance, but if you're ill and there's any way you can postpone your flight, it's highly recommended. Explains Finkelston, "We are more contagious to others when we have a fever, and germs can spread more easily in the air inside an airplane." If you can't reschedule, she recommends wearing a mask over your nose and mouth or using a scarf to keep your germs to yourself. Also, be sure to cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, and keep hand sanitizer handy to cleanse after you cough and blow your nose.

Don't Touch Germ-Ridden Surfaces

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Here's a gross fact for you: Norovirus has been known to be transmitted from tray tables due to people using them to change the diapers of their sick children, according to Finkelston. She recommends being sure not to touch the tray table, seatbelt, bathroom handles, or any other publicly shared surface before touching your mouth or your food. Consider also using antibacterial wipes to wipe down every surface before you inhabit (wet wipes are TSA-approved for both your carry-on and your checked bag).

Don't Wear Makeup

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Perhaps you don't go anywhere without a stitch of makeup on, and we totally get it. But a plane is definitely a place you'll want to bare your beautiful face and leave the makeup for the airport bathroom when you land. According to Houshmand, flying can exacerbate oily skin or parch your already dry skin, and mixing makeup into that equation could lead to breakouts. For those reasons, if you've forgotten to remove your makeup beforehand, she recommends doing so as soon as you board the plane using a micellar water like CeraVe, La Roche Posay, or Bioderma with a cotton pad.

"I love micellar water because it balances the pH levels of your skin, prevents oily skin from getting too greasy, and helps dry skin retain moisture to prevent further drying."

Don't Neglect Your Skincare

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Think about it—we're closer to the sun when we're on a plane, which means the sun's rays are even more harmful. Houshmand says she always wears SPF 50 or above because "you can get sunburned from on a plane!"

Then, once she's airborne, she constantly refreshes with face mists. "I use Mario Badescu Rose Water or La Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water. This preps my skin for serums and masks, and maintains hydration, dewiness and awakens your skin. I always apply an antioxidant serum to protect my skin from nasty free-radical damage. Recycled cabin air has very little oxygen and dehydrates, depletes, and devitalizes the skin. I like CE Ferulic Acid from SkinCeuticals."

Lastly, Houshmand wants you to remember not to forget to hydrate your hands, lips, and eyes. The skin is thinnest here and thus most prone to degradation.

Don't Stay Seated the Entire Time

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"Get up and walk around (at least once) during your flight, especially if it is a long trip," recommends Finkelston. This is vital for the elderly and those who are pregnant to increase blood flow and circulation and to prevent blood clots from deep vein thrombosis. If you cannot get out of your seat and walk around, Finkelston suggests engaging your muscles from your seat by stretching your calf muscles or tapping your feet. If you're at risk for blood clots, your doctor will likely recommend you wear compression socks.

Don't Count on Being Able to Sleep on the Plane

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Even with the best neck pillow in the world and some melatonin supplements, you may have several factors working against you when you try to get some shut-eye on the plane. "Don't plan on sleeping on the plane, as there are many potential disruptors, e.g., the person who kicks or pulls on your seat from behind, the person next to you who needs to get up, and maybe a crying baby happens to be sitting next to you," says Finkelston. Instead, she recommends boarding the plane well-rested, if at all possible.

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