Preventive Measures

Stichting Fly Aware advises taking the following precautions when you’re flying:

Adequate Sleep Before the Flight

Ensure you get enough sleep before your flight. During air travel, your body experiences reduced air pressure (resulting in less oxygen), potential changes in diet, prolonged periods of sitting, time zone differences, and more. Being well-rested allows your body to better cope with these additional stresses, enhances your resistance to germs, and aids in the removal of free radicals and toxins you may have encountered.

Vitamin C, a strong antioxidant

Extra Vitamin C

Take extra vitamin C before, during, and after your flight. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that gives your immune system a significant boost in removing free radicals. Some specialists even recommend taking up to 1000 mg per hour during the flight. Such an extreme dose may cause stomach upset and diarrhea, but a moderate overdose is generally harmless. Any excess vitamin C that your body doesn’t use is easily excreted in urine.

Carry a Mask

Ensure you have a suitable face mask in your carry-on baggage. High-quality masks with activated charcoal filters, such as those produced by Cambridge Masks in England, are effective at filtering out almost all (>99%) contaminants from cabin air during a fume event. Investing in such a mask is worthwhile for your health and the well-being of your fellow passengers.

When to Wear the Mask

afb. Sky Mask
“Sky mask” in use

In-flight mask usage is essential for your health and well-being. Here’s when to wear your mask:

During Engine Start, Take Off, Climb, Descent, and Landing: Put on your mask as soon as the engines start and keep it on until after takeoff, during the climb, and also during descent and landing. These periods pose the highest risk of air contamination from engine emissions due to significant power setting changes.

Turbulence: Turbulence can lead to fluctuations in engine power settings as the autothrottle system adjusts to maintain speed. This can increase the risk of cabin air contamination. During turbulent periods, cabin crew often switch on the “SEAT BELT” sign for safety. Therefore, our advice for mask usage is:

“SEAT BELT on ==> Mask on.”

Insecticide Spraying Before Arrival: In some destinations, flight crew may use insecticides to spray the cabin before arrival. While this is legally required in certain countries and is often claimed to be harmless, these are actually highly toxic substances. Always wear your mask when this occurs; it provides effective protection against inhaling these chemicals.

When You Smell Unusual Odors: If you detect any “strange” odors (e.g., “dirty socks” or “wet dog”), it’s advisable to wear your mask.You can order your Cambridge “Sky Mask” through this link.

COVID-19 Measures

Due to COVID-19 regulations, you are required to wear a face mask or covering continuously on board a passenger aircraft. Typically, these masks have minimal specific requirements and can even be self-made. Such simple masks provide limited protection against the coronavirus and other airborne contaminants on board. Fly Aware Foundation strongly recommends using the Sky Mask for enhanced protection.

Some airlines may object to the use of the Sky Mask because it features an Outflow Valve, a valve that opens when you exhale to improve comfort by reducing breathing resistance and improving heat and moisture removal. However, this design means your exhaled air is not filtered. Fly Aware recommends using the Sky Mask and, if necessary, layering it with a simple (potentially self-made) mask on top to ensure effective protection, comfort, and reassurance for those around you.

Close the Overhead Blower

afb. overhead blower
Overhead blower

Once on board, you may find an “overhead blower” in some aircraft types. This device allows you to direct a stream of “fresh” air directly to your face. However, it’s advisable to close it or avoid directing it toward your face. While the air from the overhead blower is filtered (recirculated air that has passed through a HEPA filter, removing bacteria and viruses), it does not filter out any airborne oil fumes or other chemicals. Redirecting this air toward your face could expose you to these contaminants, so it’s better to avoid it when possible.