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airplane flu

We have just returned from France. We used the helpline and want to thank all for the kind and accurate information we received. There is just one problem. Three days after arriving home both my wife and I experienced flu like symptoms which have lingered on. I had difficulty staying awake and slept up to 20 per day. Physician prescribed steroids have helped. This is the second time this has occurred after a long flight. I wonder if anyone else has had similar post flight symptoms and what might be done to prevent them. Thanks, Ross Carter

Posted by
9363 posts

You might have picked up a bug on the plane, or you just might be experiencing jet lag. I always seem to have a harder time after returning than when I go to Europe. My parents also find it harder to adjust when returning. Perhaps the adrenaline of the trip itself has worn off and you just need to catch up a bit.

Posted by
1955 posts

It takes me an entire week to feel like my ole self after I return home. Sleep schedules are out of whack, and I am usually very tired. But, we usually travel for just 9-12 days at a time, so the body is doing a lot of very quick "clock adjustments." And, those flights are just so darn long, usually with several hours between connections. After my last trip, I was so groggy, I would not even drive a vehicle for 2 days until I felt more alert. If you were to catch me during that "re-entry" period, I would swear I was never going to fly to Europe again............but, I get over it and am soon thinking about what my next destination might be :) Many say drinking lots of water while flying and trying to keep as normal of a schedule as possible once home helps, but I seem to always need a nap the first two days. Airplane air also seems so eww gross, and usually either my spouse or I seem to always have a day or two of bad sinus problems once we return. (And, we don't normally have sinus problems otherwise.) A flight attendant also once said how wise were to have brought our own flight pillows, and she suggested doing the same with blankets, saying that even though the airline stuff is cleaned, "it is used by so many different people and types of people." I took note of her comment, but I have not yet packed my own blanket......germs are picked up from so many places, I don't know if a blanket itself would help that much. But, yes, many experience weird symptoms and fatigue after flying. I hear it is much better if in Business Class on the over-the-pond flights (especially if flying BC on the return), but I just can't seem to make myself spend the $$$$s.

Posted by
2876 posts

When you fly overseas you're in close contact with a couple hundred people or more for several hours. All you need is for a few of them to be coughing or sneezing and their bugs are going to spread throughout the cabin. Hence: "airplane flu."

Posted by
12040 posts

You can lower your risk of infection by using hand sanitizer and being overall in good health. Beyond that, though, it's somewhat the luck of the draw. Not much you can do if the guy next to you is hacking up a lung.

Posted by
2070 posts

Maybe a 'flu shot would have helped? They were available since August this year.

Posted by
8995 posts

Speaking of Flu shots.... A lot of airports these days have Pharmacies inside the terminal. A couple of years ago, the one at Newark Airport (now out of business)had a table set-up for the shots, and I went for it. But when I told my doctor about it a few months later he told me it wasn't a good idea. For reasons I didn't quite understand he said for 7-10 days after a shot, one shouldn't be in a "mall" type environment with lots of people in close quarters; like an airplane. Apparently I was doing more harm than good:(

Posted by
3580 posts

Flu shots may take two weeks to "work." There is a delay from the time of the shot until it if fully effective. I have bad jetlag on returning home, too. I feel disoriented and have trouble returning to my regular sleep pattern. It usually is worse if I have been gone 4 weeks or more. For shorter trips to Europe, my return jetlag is less.

Posted by
643 posts

We arrived back from Europe last month on the 17th, and on the 20th I started to feel a sore throat. By that following Friday I felt pretty miserable, and for the next 3 weeks was sick as a dog. It's been a month since we returned and I am feeling almost back to normal. I went to the doctor a week after it began and he gave me some cough medicine and said I didn't have the flu, which was a relief. But this was the worst cold I've had in more than a decade! I think it's going around. Maybe I caught it on the plane, maybe while I was swimming at the YMCA the day after we got home, I'll never know.

Posted by
1306 posts

On Oct 5th we arrived from Turkey via Frankfurt. We were almost recuperated from colds caught three weeks earlier in Istanbul, but after returning we also had trouble staying awake and also experienced fatigue, more so than any previous trip. We still feel tired and have minor cold symptoms and also feel that something in the air in the plane caused these symptons.

Posted by
36 posts

Hello, Thanks for the information and feedback on "airplane flu". In my case, I doubt it was jet lag.Even so, infor about jet lag is helpful. What got me through the enormous fatigue leading to 20 hours a day sleep, coughing, etc was a short 10 day course on Prednisone, a steroid, and beathing Vicks Vapor Rub melted in boiling water. Each opened the upper and lower airways.
Next time, our own pillow and carbon filter face masks. I really don't care how we look. Those coming from China wear them so what should we not? I let you know after our next trip. Again, thanks. Ross

Posted by
12040 posts

"Next time, our own pillow and carbon filter face masks. I really don't care how we look. Those coming from China wear them so what should we not?" Because they lower the transmission rate of sick people from spreading respiratory viruses, but if a healthy person wears one, they do nothing for protection. You would need to wear a properly fitted respirator to protect yourself... and I doubt that would be a comfortable flight.

Posted by
2193 posts

How 'bout one of those NBC suits that soldiers might wear? Uncomfortable yet protective. Our local airfield has had a flu shot desk in operation for several weeks now...has had one each year since the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

Posted by
571 posts

I was skeptical of those over-the-counter pre-flight supplements like "Airborn" that are supposed to help you fend off illness from plane flights, but a friend who is an elementary school teacher really recommended them as a means to fight catching colds in public, so I gave it a try. In my limited use of the product, I did seem to be sick after flights less frequently. My completely non-scientific conclusion is that it might work and certainly didn't seem to harm, so why not try? My boss swears by a strict dietary regime over three days prior to travel that supposedly reduces illness, weariness, and jet lag after travel. I forget the name of the system, but several can be found online by searching "jet lag diets". But it sounds like you may have picked up a particularly virulent strain of something nasty. I hope you feel better soon.

Posted by
13211 posts

Funny, I've never used Airborne or similar products and never gotten sick after a flight. That must prove something, no?

Posted by
1427 posts

I never know for sure why on some trips, I don't have jetlag - on others it's terrible. But, I've come to the conclusion that if I'm rested, it's so much better. In the days when I used to work, I would leave for a trip exhausted (trying to get everything done so I could go), and I would have mild jetlag at the destination plus might get sick. (I never sleep on flights.) Since that time, I'm typically rested when we go - no problem. We just returned in September from 15 days in England, and I had about 4 mild days of jetlag when we got back, but we got a lot of sleep in England and were totally rested when we got on the plane. I do believe for me it makes a difference.

Posted by
8169 posts

I never get sick after flights either and I never use any anti-bacterial anything, no hand sanitizer and no wipes, plus I don't use anti-bacterial products in my home either. Simple soap and water is enough. I am not sure why people think a plane is dirtier or more germ laden than a bus, a train, a dept. store, an office, a mall, etc. They all have 100's, if not 1000's of people touching everything all the time. How often do you think the shopping cart handle gets cleaned at the grocery store? My guess is never. All the clothes hangers in the store? How about the button on the bus to open the door, or the handles on the subway? The plane is probably much cleaner. Tests done on the air in planes show that is a lot cleaner than the air in your office. Google it. Seems to be a myth that airplane air is germier or dirtier.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Seems to be a myth that airplane air is germier or dirtier." The airplane itself is probably cleaner than most germophobes realize. The problem, though, is being in close contact with your fellow human beings for hours at a time in an enclosed environment. The interior of an airplane could be autoclaved and sprayed down with chlorine bleach... it would be for naught, though, if someone is coughing up respiratory viruses over a period of a 10 hour flight.

Posted by
652 posts

You could wear a face mask, but after 1-2 hours it's useless. The mask gets moist from you breathing, and then it's essentially no good. So you'd need to change to a new one several times. I've used Airborne and I think it helps, and it also tastes good if you put it in Sprite (the orange)! But it hasn't really been proven to help, but it's got lots of vitamins which I know I don't get from my diet so...

Posted by
33 posts

When I take long flights, one precaution I always take is take airborne on the plane. Yes it's not full proof, but there's no harm in taking in more vitamins to strengthen my immune system. Same reason goes for drinking lots of orange juice on the plane. Wash your hands more often also helps, even though the toilets on the plane are generally gross. As for jet-lags, I find that the time of the flight is very important. I usually have less problem when going there. Probably because, like another poster has mentioned, my excitement at a new place could get me going until it's time for bed. The biggest problem is coming back. However, if I find a flight that arrives home at night time, and I do my best to keep myself awake during the flight, then I could be sure that I'll be well rested when I get home. The next day, I'm usually back to normal. I have always followed this method and I have found that I could usually go to work the next day after I returned without any problem.