In this article, we will explore the factors contributing to this risk and provide tips on how to minimize it.

Understanding the Common Cold

The common cold is a viral infection that primarily affects the nose and throat. It is highly contagious and easily spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets. Symptoms of the common cold include a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, mild headache, and in some cases, fever.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults can expect to have an average of 2-3 colds per year, while children are even more susceptible, experiencing 6-8 colds annually. While there is no cure for the common cold, it is generally a mild illness that resolves on its own within a week or two.

The Role of Air Travel

Airplanes provide an ideal environment for the spread of respiratory illnesses like the common cold. The confined space, recirculated air, and close proximity to potentially infected passengers increase the risk of transmission. Moreover, the dry air in the cabin may cause nasal passages to dry out, making it easier for viruses to enter the body.

Research conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that passengers seated within two rows of someone with a respiratory infection have an 80% probability of getting infected themselves. Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research revealed that the risk of catching a cold is 113 times higher for air travelers compared to non-travelers.

Minimizing the Risk of Catching a Cold

Although it is challenging to completely eliminate the risk of catching a cold, there are measures you can take to minimize your chances of becoming ill during air travel:

  • Wash your hands frequently: Proper hand hygiene is crucial in preventing the transmission of viruses. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face: Viruses can enter your body through the eyes, nose, and mouth, so refrain from touching your face unless you have clean hands.
  • Use disinfectant wipes: Wipe down commonly touched surfaces, such as tray tables, armrests, and seatbelt buckles, with disinfectant wipes to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to keep your nasal passages moist, which can help prevent viruses from entering your body.
  • Consider wearing a mask: Although the effectiveness of masks in preventing the common cold is debated, wearing one can provide an additional barrier of protection, especially if someone nearby is visibly ill.


Air travel can indeed increase the risk of catching the common cold due to the confined space and close proximity to potentially infected individuals. However, by adopting simple preventive measures such as practicing proper hand hygiene, avoiding face-touching, disinfecting surfaces, staying hydrated, and considering the use of masks, you can significantly reduce your chances of falling ill. Remember, a healthy travel experience starts with proactive measures to protect yourself from the common cold.

Key takeaways:

  • Air travel exposes individuals to a higher risk of catching the common cold.
  • Passengers seated within two rows of someone with a respiratory infection have an 80% probability of getting infected themselves.
  • Proper hand hygiene, surface disinfection, and staying hydrated are effective preventive measures during air travel.
  • Consider wearing a mask for additional protection against respiratory infections.

By following these tips, you can make your air travel experience safer and healthier. Stay informed, take precautions, and enjoy your journey without the worry of catching the common cold!