Do You Get Sick When You Fly?

Many people get sick when they fly on airplanes. Often patients come to me for immune support for when they fly. Our current "air travel" protocol of supplements has been very effective for many patients for preventing acute sickness when they fly.

We have always assumed that the reason people get sick when they fly is the concentration of people they are exposed to at the airport, and of course, on the airplane, including the person sitting next to them.

Now a new article has appeared in the medical literature entitled, "Management of Exposure to Aircraft Bleed Air Contaminants Among Airline Workers: A Guide for Healthcare Providers."

This article points out that the outside air supplied to the cabin/flight deck on commercial aircraft ("bleed air") may sometimes be contaminated with Pyrolyzed Engine Oil and/or Hydraulic Fluid.

The article goes on to state that "as a result of this contamination, airline workers and passengers may develop acute and/or chronic health effects."

The list of symptoms which the article reviews, the common symptoms that we see in patients who have flown, include eye, nose or throat irritation, wheezing, and cough.

However, the surprising thing is that other symptoms including neurological symptoms like headache, dizziness, memory impairment and concentration difficulties along with intestinal symptoms including nausea and vomiting and diarrhea, as well as psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, sleep disturbance and even PTSD, are also connected with exposure to contaminated bleed air! The article even goes on to say that chronic symptoms can result from exposure to contaminated bleed air.

The article also points out other causes of patient’s flying and getting sick. This includes ozone, insecticides including Piperonyl Butoxide, De-icing fluids, disinfectants and deodorizers and exhaust fumes from ground vehicles. All the list of symptoms can also be caused by these additional exposures on airplanes.

The interesting thing to me is that this article (referenced below), talks about the effects primarily as being on aircraft personnel. However, I know that a significant number of my patients fly more than the legal limit allowed for airline pilots per month! For me as your physician, this additional information is very helpful.

Of course when I see patients after an airplane ride, we must treat their acute symptoms, but sometimes their "unusual symptoms" including the neurological ones, are mystifying to me and the neurologists that I send them to.

What can we do about this?!  The bottom line, of course, is practically nothing. When we are sitting on an airplane, we are all breathing the same air.

However, this information further stimulates me to encourage all my patients to be on a "permanent detox program" in an effort to minimize the Total Body Burden that I so often talk with you about.

For further information on this, I refer you to the "Total Body Burden" article I wrote, which is downloadable from my website at 

I also refer you to Sherry Rogers’ book, "Detoxify or Die."

I look forward to talking with you about this when I see you in the office.


About Dr. Soram Khalsa

As an MD, Dr Soram specializes in Integrative Medicine combining diet, nutrition, acupuncture, herbs and nutrition. Visit Dr Soram’s Healthy Living Store where you’ll find high-quality nutritional supplements:

  • Warner

    Hi Soram – I really appreciate your newsletters. Keep ’em coming! Meanwhile,
    do you have one “permanent detox program” for all of us? Or does each patient need his/her own personalized one?

    I’m seeing you soon for yearly physical.

    Congratulations on your BEST Doc award! (But we knew that already!)

    Take care,

  • Gurshabad Khalsa

    Dr. Soram Singh, Congrats on becoming a new member of Best Doctors. No surprise to me at all. You are the best and that’s what I tell everyone.

    Master Sung will be here next Saturday to do some flute recording on my new mantra CD. Should be fun. I understand he will be seeing you as well.

    Thanks for everything.

  • VL T

    I do not fly on small planes because no matter what, I smell the fumes and they make me noxious, and try though I might I can’t do anything about it. I have a nose for smelling and this sensitivity might cause me to take in more fumes – not sure. But I’m glad someone’s acknowledging it as a real sickness, not some mental trip that one has because of anxiety.