Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Planes, Cruise Ships, and Germs

Boost your chances of healthy travel by taking a few preventive steps.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Flying to great-aunt Erma's house for Thanksgiving? Or taking a leisurely wintertime cruise along the shores of the Mexican Riviera? Boost your chances of healthy travel by taking a few preventive steps. That way, you'll cut your risk of catching cold and flu from other plane passengers. And you won't be confined to your cabin on the cruise ship, battling a nasty case of gastroenteritis while other passengers are off enjoying the sights.

Flu Season Coming

As winter approaches, "the concern right now is influenza," says William Schaffner, MD, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Many people worry that they're more susceptible to cold and flu germs while sitting inside a plane for hours with hundreds of other travelers. But there's no strong evidence to show that we're more vulnerable in the air than on the ground, says Gary Brunette, MD, MS, a medical epidemiologist who serves on the CDC Travel Health Team. "Certainly, [on a plane] people are in close contact for long periods of time, and one would think that there's a higher likelihood of coming in contact with somebody who's sick. But there's nothing to show that it happens any more often than in a normal working environment."

To trap viruses, bacteria, and fungi most newer airplanes filter the air with HEPA filters similar to those used in hospital respiratory isolation rooms, according to the CDC.

"The planes have very good filtration systems, and they also introduce fresh air into circulation. So any microbes that might be in the air would possibly be filtered out pretty quickly," Brunette says.

Still, filtration isn't foolproof. "It's not 100% air exchange all the time, just as it is not in any of our buildings. The fresh air intake is incremental over time, so there's a fair amount of air sharing over time in the airplane," Schaffner adds.

And you can still catch a cold or the flu if someone near you coughs or sneezes infected droplets that directly enter your eyes or nose. Or you might touch a contaminated armrest or tray table and transfer the germs to your eyes or nose by hand.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat