How to Keep From Drying Out on a Plane

Published by Collin Quick on January 17, 2012

Airplanes are like sponges: once you hit cruising altitude, they seem to suck all the moisture out of your body.

And it's no wonder – the humidity level in the cabins of most commercial airlines is just 10 percent to 20 percent (some are even as low as 1 percent), according to travel expert Robert Haru Fisher in an article on Frommer's. Compared to this, the Sahara Desert is downright balmy at 25 percent humidity (the average humidity for a room in your house is anywhere from 30 to 65 percent).

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Why Are Cabins So Dry?
The aircraft must pump in outside air to dilute the air inside the plane, which is loaded with carbon dioxide from passengers and crew breathing and from gases coming off everything from clothing to seats in the cabin. The air that is pumped in is very dry because, at 30,000 feet, it is difficult for anything to hold moisture, according to engineer Daniel Dettmers on

Dettmers conjectures that airlines might not be too keen on adding humidifiers to planes because that would require bringing extra water, which would add to the weight of the plane, thus increasing fuel costs.

What's more, just 50 percent of the air circulated on a plane is fresh, according to Fisher (airlines used to have 100 percent fresh air, but to save on fuel, began taking in less fresh air). Planes are outfitted with HEPA filters that capture 99.9 percent of bacteria, fungi or viruses circulating through the cabin, but passengers are still more prone to colds and other illness after flying.

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How to Stay Moist
Veteran flight attendant Chris Smith told PRWEB that some of the most common problems that can arise during flights as a result of the dry air include dry skin, dry eyes, dry mouth and nasal passages, and fatigue.

The dry air not only weakens your body's defenses against disease, but also – because it's re-circulated – exposes you to whatever bacteria your fellow passengers might be carrying.

To combat the dry air and boost your immune system, veteran flight attendant Smith recommends drinking extra water starting two to three days before the flight, soaking in a tub both before and after your flight, taking vitamins, and trying to relax and de-stress upon arrival.

Fisher recommends drinking 8 ounces of water minimum for each hour you're in the air. He also advises that you avoid alcohol and caffeine while in flight, which will only dehydrate you further.

Packing small bottles of lotion, eye moisturizer and lip balm will help relieve some of the dryness as well.

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