Preventive Measures

Stichting Fly Aware advises to take the following preventive measures when you take a flight:

Before the flight: get sufficient sleep

During the flight, your body will be facing a lowered air pressure (and consequently less oxygen), possibly a different food pattern than what you’re used to, sitting in the same posture for a prolonged period of time, multiple chemical exposures, time differences etc. One of the effects of these stresses is an increased production of free radicals, which can cause a.o. cell damage and accelerated aging. A well rested body can deal with these extra stresses much better, it will improve your resistance against germs and assist the body to get rid of any free radicals and toxic substances it may have collected.

Extra Vitamin C

Vitamin C, a strong antioxidant

Before the flight, take extra vitamin C. It is a strong antioxidant that will give the immune systeem a firm boost to eliminate free radicals. During and after the flight, it is also a good idea to take extra vitamin C. Some specialists even recommend to take as much as 1000 mg every hour during the flight. Such extreme doses might cause an upset stomach and diarrhoea, but a slight overdose will not do you any harm. Any unused vitamin C will simply be dumped into urine.

Take your mask with you

Make sure to carry a suitable face mask in your hand luggage. A good quality (activated carbon) mask is produced by Cambridge Masks in the UK. In case of a fume event, these masks will filter out most of the pollution (>99%) in the cabin air. Your health, and those of your travel companions, are certainly worth the investment!

When to wear?

afb. Sky Mask
Sky Mask in use

During the whole flight, keep your mask within reach, e.g. in the seat pocket in front of you. Keep in mind that, should a Fume Event occur, you might not get the chance to take your mask out of your luggage in the overhead bins.

Wear your mask at least during engine start, until after Take Off and climb, and also during descent, approach and landing. These are the periods where chances of air contamination by the engines ar highest, as large changes in power settings occur.

When turbulence occurs during the flight, the so-called Autothrottle-system (cruise control) will continually vary the power setting of the engines, in an attempt to maintain a constant speed. Therefore, chances of contamination of the cabin air also increase during these periods. During such periods, the crew will normally switch on the “SEAT BELT” sign for safety reasons, just like during Take Off, climb, descent and landing. Hence our advise on the use of your face mask:

“SEAT BELT on ==> Mask on”

On certain destinations, the cabin crew will spray insecticides in the cabin before arrival. This is a legal requirement in several countries, and it is often claimed to be harmless. Don’t be fooled there, this is highly toxic material! Wear your mask during these periods, it offers effective protection against inhaling these chemicals.

Furthermore it’s obviously wise to wear your mask whenever you observe any “strange” odours (“dirty socks”, “wet dog”). You can order your Cambridge “Sky Mask” via this link.

Corona measures

As a result of the present Corona measures, you are obliged to continuously wear a face mask on board of passenger aircraft these days. In general there are hardly any specification requirements for these masks (may even be a DIY mask). However, such a simple mask will hardly provide any protection, against Corona virus as well as the many other contaminants that may be present in the air on board. Stichting Fly Aware therefore strongly recommends to use the Sky Mask!

It appears however, that certain Airlines do object against the use of these masks, as it is equipped with a so-called Outflow Valve. This valve will open when you exhale. This will greatly improve your wearing comfort: you will experience a lower breathing resistance, while heat and moist (from your breath) will be purged more efficiently. Thus the mask will stay more comfortable, also during longer periods of use.

The objection however, is that because of the Outflow Valve, your exhaled air is no longer filtered. Nevertheless, we recommend to use the Sky Mask during your flight, and where necessary wear a (simple, DIY) mask over it. This will ensure a proper protection and good comfort for you, while people around you can feel relaxed as well.

Turn the “blower” off

afb. overhead blower
Overhead blower

Once on board, in certain aircraft types you will find a so-called “overhead blower”, which can provide you with “fresh” air directly on your face. It is however advisable to turn this off, or at least not to aim it towards your face. Although he air that comes out of it has been filtered (as this is recirculated air that has passed through a so-called “HEPA-filter), and bacteria and viruses are supposed to have been removed, any oil fumes and other chemicals in the air are not filtered out. Via these blowers they will land straight into your face, so you’d better avoid this if possible…