air conditioning overhead vents flight attendant call button
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Allergic to Air Conditioning Aboard an Airplane?

Articles which I have written in the past at The Gate have covered passengers with allergies — such as those who are allergic to peanuts and nuts as two of many examples — but what I encountered on a recent flight was a new allergy to me.

Allergic to Air Conditioning Aboard an Airplane?

I sat in a seat by the window as passengers boarded the airplane; and although I wore a T-shirt, I was warm — so I opened the air vent above my seat.

A woman — who was dressed in an overcoat, a scarf and a wooly hat as if the weather emulated the middle of winter — sat next to me in the middle seat; and shortly after she sat down, she asked me something in a thick accent.

“I’m sorry — what did you say?” I asked.

“Do you need vent open? I am allergic to air conditioning.”

After sitting in my seat bewildered for a couple of seconds, I grudgingly closed the vent above me as I decided to sacrifice my comfort for hers. After all, she was sitting in the middle seat; and I believe that people seated in the middle seat are already at a disadvantage in terms of comfort. She did not say please during her request; nor did she thank me once I complied — but I attributed those oversights of politeness to a possible language barrier.

Fortunately, the duration of the flight was approximately 90 minutes; so what happened was really no big deal — but I could not help but wonder if people really can be allergic to air conditioning.

An Explanation?

“People who have a sensitive nose, who’re predisposed to allergies, those with compromised immune systems and those who’re already suffering from an infection, say, common cold, are especially prone to the ill-effects of air-conditioning,” according to this article written by Aparna Karthikeyan for The Hindu which quoted H. Ganapathy, who is a doctor and consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai. “The symptoms of rhinitis precipitated by air-conditioners range from blocked nose, and repeated sneezing all the way to tonsillitis, pharyngitis, sinusitis and body-ache. ‘It can affect the quality of life,’ says Dr. Ganapathy. ‘If the nose is constantly blocked, you can feel sick and irritable, and your efficiency goes down. As for children, how can they play, study or attend school comfortably? So the important thing to do is identify why the symptoms occur.’”

From a number of sources which I have researched — the excerpt you just read being only one of them — it appears that people are not necessarily allergic to the air conditioning aboard an airplane itself; but rather, that it is a contributing factor towards exacerbating other allergies and other health concerns.


I do not necessarily know how the woman who sat next to me was exactly allergic to air conditioning — or, more importantly, from what she was actually suffering…

…but for me — at that moment, anyway — the right thing to do was to do what I can to ensure that she was more comfortable; and that was despite the marginal sacrifice of my comfort for the duration of the flight.

I usually try not to engage in the practice in ending an article with questions to prompt you to engage; but I am curious: are you allergic to air conditioning aboard an airplane — or have you encountered someone who is allergic to air conditioning aboard an airplane? Is there something more to this condition of which other readers of The Gate should know?

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

  1. The woman was likely suffering from Cold Urticaria. This is an actual condition where people can develop hives, rashes, and even welts when exposed to any kind of cold, and typically look like the middle of winter (as you described), to prevent from breaking out in serious rashes.

      1. Im a frequent traveller and everytime after I travel on an aeroplane no matter if it’s a short haul, long haul, summer time, winter time I always begin to sneeze. Shortly after getting on the plane and for 2 or 3 days after I leave the plane. I sneeze almost constantly and my nose runs constantly and I also get very very itchy streaming eyes. I would love to find out if there’s an explanation for this!

        1. I have these exact same conditions. I’m trying to learn what is causing it.

          I am suffering it right now. It isn’t every flight it happens. But this is the 2nd flight in the last two and a half years.

          It’s brutal. It doesn’t happen to me with normal A/C only on certain flights, but once it starts for 2 – 3 days I have intense sneezing.

          I don’t know if a certain chemical is used in the A/C on certain planes, or if’s a bacteria / fungus that is growing in the A/C system of certain planes, or a certain material used in the ventilation system of certain planes.

          The plane I flew in yesterday was an Airbus a320 operated by Frontier airlines.

          I would love if someone can discover what this is, because I’m been a major air traveler for years, and now I’m worried that I’ll have difficulty traveling!!!

          So far both attacks have thankfully occurred on the way home.

          I don’t know what type of plane I was on the first time, but now I think I’m going to keep a diary of airplane type and see if there is some pattern.

          1. This first happened to me in July of 2018 on a LOT flight from Warsaw to Vienna. I woke up and sneezed 15 times in a row, and proceeded to sneeze for the next 8 hours, runny nose and all. I woke up and was fine. The same thing happened to me on the flight back – I was fine, then I went to sleep and woke up sneezing. Now on a flight from Vienna to Los Angeles a couple days ago, the same thing happened, the same tickle in my nose. Was blowing my nose and sneezing for the last 4-5 hours of the flight and the next 7 hours until I went to bed. Extremely uncomfortable. Then I wake up and it’s all gone. Would also desperately like a solution as I travel quite frequently. More vitamin c? Any preventative ideas?

          2. I suffer from this! Am so pleased – although that sounds mean – that it’s not just me. It’s not every flight – in fact, I haven’t had the problem for a year or too, but yesterday, I started sneezing and nose running towards the end of a flight and I know it will now last 2 days at least. Is there anything one can do to avoid this? It is so unpleasant.

          1. when ever i fly in airoplane i have a tickly nose, runny nose sneezing for 3 days never enjoy the beginning of my holiday.

          2. I’ve just come back from USA 2 hours into flight started sneezing going and coming back also it lasted for a week going so I guess I’m going to have the same now it’s like a bad head cold.d

      2. I took a terrible reaction – severe rash on face, extremely swollen eyes – after short flight London to Glasgow. Similar reaction, though not as severe few months ago returning from Bristol to Glasgow. Have flown for years – never had any issues! Can’t help but think it’s related to wearing masks on flights now as well as whatever chemicals they now use on aircraft for COVID? GP looked at me as if I was crazy but what else could it be? Can’t find anything online to support my theory so any feedback would be appreciated.

    1. Yes this was my first thought as well. I suffer from cholinergic urticaria, which is the heat-caused version of this. Exercise, hot showers, certainly running to make a tight connection can cause me to break out in hives. I still travel quite a bit and have never had to ask a fellow passenger for accommodations, but I can imagine it with the cold version. Especially if she was dressed that way. Thank you for being kind to her.

  2. I used to have this exact health problem the day after almost 90% of my flights. I would start with fever, body aches and then sneezing, blocked nose and throat infection. Had to take medicines and rest for cure. None of the doctors i consulted could point out that the allergy was due to the flying.
    I one day realised that this was happening usually after i would take a flight. Then i also realised that during most of the flights there would be a period in which i would feel extremely cold as if im wearing a tshirt in 10 deg C.
    Then onwards i started wearing a scarf and a woolen cap through the flights and this is working for me. It was a trial and error method.

    I do not know of any permanent cure to this problem yet or even what exactly is causing this.

    1. I have exactly the same problem in the past years, whenever I took a flight I got sick the next day like you.
      Then I realised that it is because the air-conditioner. When I feel the air blowing on my neck then I have a strange cold feeling.

      Anyone knows a kind of prevention beside scarfs and hoodie?

      BTW I have the same problem for example in Las Vegas Casinos, I get sick of the airco. 🙁

      1. Till now i have no cure for this. I just try to avoid direct aircon blow where i can and in flights i wear a woollen cap and scarf.

  3. Yes, this is true. I don’t have a specific name for the allergy, but for me nothing to do with the cold air but the air quality itself. As I type these comments I am suffering with congestion, sneezing, runny nose and feeling as though I caught an instant cold after my flight today. I felt the initial tinkle in my right nostril shortly after boarding the plane today and started to sneeze. My allergist instructed me in the past to do the following just before boarding an airplane to prevent such symptoms. Use a prescribed nasal spray and saline spray as directed. There are times when the symptoms are short lived but today its been constant all day.

  4. I am suffering right now. Sometimes it starts from a series of deep sneezes, but almost always I feels a period of painful dryness in my nose right before I start sneezing. Airplane air has very low relative humidity therefore I thought that the dryness of the air is the problem. I tried to use a water sprayer to make air more moist around me. Sometimes it helps to avoid or delay the symptoms of runny nose and congestion. Taking “over the counter” allergy medication prior to a flight as preventative measure could help also.
    But when allergy reaction starts it takes 2-3 days to get rid of, therefore I look forward to finding out how to prevent it from happening!

  5. I too have allergy issues. About 12 hours after touch down nasal drip and sneezing begins, followed by sinus blockage. The condition lasts for 7 to 12 hours and then goes away as quickly as it began. This condition develops consistently whenever I fly commercially. Several years ago I plugged in a window air conditioner which had not been used or cleaned in a few years. Unexpectedly, it blasted (and I inhaled) dirty air and mold from the old air filter and I became quite ill. My physician treated the condition with prednisone and it cleared up after several months. I wonder if the occurrence has left my respiratory system compromised and susceptible. Swimming in a chlorinated pool or lake, as well as sleeping out in a tent (dew on the ground) brings about a similar reaction as flying in a commercial airplane.

    1. I am sorry to learn of your experience and your health issues, Daniel.

      I wish I can answer your question as to whether or not breathing in that dirty air and mold from that old air filter compromised your system — but perhaps a reader of The Gate who is qualified to answer that question can offer some insight…?

      Thank you for sharing that information.

  6. After returning from a seven week holiday that included many flights, I went straight to google to find out why I get extreme hay fever whenever on a plane..well nine time out of ten!! I too get a dry painful feeling in my nostril first, then a constant stream of sneezing watery eyes and nose follows. I’ve resorted to high potency antihistamine s and nasal spray before I fly, and although this helps,
    ( much to the joy of my fellow passengers), I can still feel it in my head. The first time I experienced it, it was so extreme that when stopped to refuel in hong Kong the flight staff had to escort me through customs to go to the chemist! I used to suffer from hayfever when I was young, however I grew out of it, but when I get a head cold my eyes and nose drip ( more like pour) water just Like an allergy, so I agree there must be some weakness there already…just nice to know I’m not the only one!

  7. I have experienced very similar symptoms. Coming back from Bankock I started sneezing after the plane was sprayed with the insect spray. I sneezed solidly for the whole flight plus another 12hours once I got home. Ended up sitting with the crew. Used all the tissues on board. Horrible experience. Recently we flew back from Cyprus. No insect spray but 2hours into journey my nose started streaming and then the sneezing began. I also heard someone else on the flight sounding just like me. This time it only seemed to be affecting one nostril. I kept my hand up to my nose squeezing my nostrils together and breathing out of my mouth. Once we landed the symptoms disappeared within about an hour.
    I am going to NY in November and not looking forward to the flight. Do you have any ideas as to what I can do to stop this?
    I am 69 fit and healthy. I have also travelled many times both short/long haul with no problems. This sneezing problem has happened over the last 10 years or so.
    Looking forward to your response.

    1. From where are you originating to get to New York, Jill scott?

      First, you need to determine as to whether or not you are actually allergic to the air conditioning aboard an airplane. As I am not a medical professional, I would consult with at least two doctors for their opinions. Be as specific as possible as you can with them pertaining to your experiences. They should be able to diagnose the source of your discomfort aboard the airplane — whether or not air conditioning is the cause — and may be able offer advice on what you can do to prevent your experiencing that discomfort; as well as prescribe you with medication, if necessary.

      I hope this helps, Jill scott. Please keep me updated on what you decide to do — as well as ask any other questions you may have.

  8. I just flew to and back from Oahu, from Portland, OR. As soon as the plane took off on our way there, my nose started running nonstop and I started sneezing like crazy all the way to Oahu. At first I thought I might have an allergic reaction to one of the snacks they gave us that had garlic in it as I am allergic to garlic but that was towards the end of the flight and this whole sneezing/runny nose thing started at take off. Still thinking it may be from food allergy, on the way back from Oahu, I was very careful not to eat anything with garlic in it and still had the same problem as soon as we entered the plane and all the way home. I used up a box or two the airline’s tissues. The flights were soooo draining and miserable!!! It took about 12 hours to clear up and I was still drained into the 2nd day after landing. That’s why I got online to see if this was a common problem and came across your blog. I don’t know if my condition was exasperated by the air conditioning or not but I would love to find out what caused it and what I can do to avoid this misery the next time I fly.

  9. I am so grateful to read this. The extreme sneezing, runny nose, and tearing is beyond annoying. It is unpredictable with me, in that on some flights, it happens and others it doesn’t. It almost always starts mid flight or near the end of the flight and then for the next 2 days I am miserable. I flew from NYC yesterday and am blowing my nose and mopping my eyes as I type this! I tried the antihistamine pre-flight trick, which doesn’t help. On other sites, I have read that perhaps it is caused by the cleaning fluids (as if they clean those things between flights: please!). The air vents are interesting because the air on planes is recirculated I believe, which means it is filled with all sorts of things (pollen, perfumes, dust, microscopic elements of grass and other fibers). Who knows? I am just gratified to know that I am not making this up (which I knew: I am a physician, although when I mentioned this to an allergist, he had no explanation). Going to try the “no open vent” experiment although I don’t hold out much hope, given that this is triggered by something in the air. Perhaps a mask, which feels silly, yet to avoid the misery of using up a box of tissues and having a raw nose for 2 days makes it worth it.

  10. Yes I am suffering this too…on many flights I start to feel chilled an hour or so in and then my nose gets a strange tickle and then it’s on!!! Streaming dripping nose, a billion tissues, sneezing about 20 times, eyes watering and puffy eyelids and this lasts for about 24 hours after the flight! I am going to try the pre flight antihistame and nasal spray next time.

  11. Hi – count me in too! I’ve flown for decades without this problem. Last night on a 5 hour flight, I was convinced I had a terrible cold. Today – nothing but a mild left-over tickle. Something in that air caused my body to have a sudden and severe reaction. Very worrisome to think about that happening to people with asthma or similar problems.

  12. A friend of mine showed me your post after I posted on FB about how I feel like I’m the only one who deals with this every time I’m on a plane. Like many comments above, I go through a zillion tissues and have the worst sinus pain and ear pressure from the congestion and generally feel awful. It starts after an hour into the flight, worsens through the duration of the flight. It immediately begins to resolve when the flight is over and I’m completely back to normal in an hour or two. For me the symptoms are worse during winter flights and when flying away from Hawaii, which I assume is the result of a more extreme shift in humidity levels than when flying from a drier climate. I get intense sneezing fits when entering buildings with AC, but once acclimated, the problem goes away, so I don’t understand why it’s so much worse on the airplanes.

  13. Never fails every time. Depending on the flight time my sinuses clog and drip horribly. I suffer from allergies and usually use Flonase which works 100%. I am suffering right now due to a red eye and on my last 30m hop I was talking to the flight attendant about how I thought I was allergic to the jet fuel exhaust you sometimes get wiffs of coming in and out from the airport. She said oh maybe, but it’s probably the recirculated air they blow at you. I jokingly said ya, I doubt you guys use filters or like a HEPA filter. She just shook her head. So in conclusion I believe it’s the air full of mold in and germs in these heavily used aircraft. That and the recirculated farts.

  14. I suffer from Cold Urticaria.
    It is a very rare and considerably extreme condition. I am that person who wears ski gear on a hot summer’s day and my airways are *immediately* triggered by cold air, food… ingesting or inhaling anything not hot. You literally cannot escape the trigger, even when being cautious, especially even on a hot day (air con – my arch enemy) so a flight is quite a scary undertaking.
    One of the biggest challenges and threats to personal safety in everyday life is that people don’t believe you or can’t grasp how serious it is. And you NEED (versus want) them to believe you because the people around you are your immediate allies when it escalates to a life-threatening situation. If you body starts trying to kill itself, it’s them that will need to alert the emergency services, or even stab your epi-pen. So we often have to ask in an incredibly direct and serious way (throwing in some manners certainly helps) but we cannot afford to risk our lives based on the other person’s willingness to believe you or not. Being direct and brief also stops that person from asking you a million questions (which strangely always come with some judgement and unsolicited advice) when really I’m just so exhausted concentrating on staying alive and doing whatever I’m doing at the time beyond having an illness.

    I’m so glad you put your own comfort aside as you literally could have been saving this person’s life. That was a really good call. Another reason for the lack of manners is that the person may have been allergic to the cold, yes. But that can entail so many other symptoms: unfathomable fatigue, gut issues, burning itching pain, hyper-adrenalin, fainting spells, palpitation and constant self-monitoring to ensure they’re in the ‘safety zone.Often the names of conditions just list one symptom.

    Thus, again, I’m glad your compassion shone through.

    1. You comment was completely educational to me, Zenzen. Thank you so much for sharing, as I learned a lot.

      Please let me know what I can do to be of further assistance to you and others who suffer from Cold Urticaria.

  15. I am also sensitive to cold air and some air-conditioners, especially in shopping malls where the air is cold (very cold to me) and especially if the air blows hard or directly on me. I immediately start a long bout of sneezing and then get very cold with goose bumps. This can be very embarassing, especially where you are in a group situation such as an airplane, church, symposiums, etc.
    I have been diagnosed with non-allergic rhinitis and am just so sick of having the sniffles, etc etc.
    On boarding a plane I try to get to my seat asap and quickly close all the air-con vents around my seat and redirect them away from my seat! Yes, that’s me! In an auditorium I quickly check where the air-cons are and make sure I sit far away from them.
    Believe me, it is not easy; closing windows, sitting in a hot office and wearing cardigans and always carrying tissues is not fun. But there is no cure, only preventive measures.

    1. I wonder if being sensitive to cold air is actually different than being allergic to air conditioning, Irene.

      I say that only because I suspect more people may suffer from non-allergic rhinitis than we may think. Nasal sprays and decongestants are what doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommend:

      I know people who are sensitive to cold air who do not have the sniffles. They suffer from Raynaud’s disease…

      …and there is no known cure for that, either.

      I wish there was something I could do to help…

  16. I too suffer from sinus issues when flying. I found what works for me to avoid symptoms of dry nostrils, sinus pressure/headaches, fatigue, chills, etc. is before my flight I am extremely proactive with preventative care. I take an antihistamine, ibuprofen to reduce sinus inflammation, use a saline nasal spray, remain hydrated (avoid diuretics—caffeine, alcohol, etc.), and also take vitamin C (Emergen-C) in addition to my daily multivitamins. The one last thing I do is wrap a scarf around my neck and then cover my mouth and nose throughout the duration of each flight so I don’t have to do what the lady did by asking you to shut off your vent. Took a round trip flight this week without any issues. I know it sounds like a lot but it’s not so bad especially compared to the symptoms awaiting me if I don’t do these things. Hope this helps someone!

  17. I finally figured that the airplane air causes my allergies. I know I am allergic to certain kinds of perfumes and now believe that may be the reason for my allergic reactions every time I fly commercial. I used to be a business pilot and never had any problems with allergies, when flying. My problem started a few years ago, after I retired to Puerto Rico, so there may be a factor of change in humidity as well. Next flight I will try a mask and take Zyrtec before my flight.

  18. Packing to board a flight from Australia to an Asian country at the moment & I started wondering about my return flight. I have no problem domestic air travel, nor on any flight out of Oz; but the return flight from Asia is always hell. Doesn’t do it returning from other countries, but within about 20 mins into a flight from several Asian countries, I develop a severe allergic reaction. My eyes get so itchy, then stream. My nose just pours & sinuses become stuffed up & painful & I develop a headache. Fellow travellers have moved away (nice having a spare seat) because they thought I’d boarded while sick. I don’t have allergies or sinus normally, and this all clears within about 6 hours of landing. Glad to read this forum & know I’m not alone & not just allergic to returning home. Will try antihistamine & nasal spray, Thanks.

  19. I have a dust allergy which is triggered in hotels, planes and airports. Ut gets worse when the flight is taking off and then landing for some reason but can settle a bit whilst in the air. It’s really frustrating and I’m sure people think I’m sick and riddled with a cold. I take antihistamines but they don’t work for the air conditioning I encounter on my travels in the foresaid places. If anyone has any recommendations to make it better or stop it please let me know!

  20. Thank you Shirley…above.
    I live in the U.K. I have just returned from Mauritius and am suffering allergic rhinitis which started several hours into the flight home. This has happened to me each time I have returned from Mauritius but not when I have flown to and from the USA or Europe.
    Many thanks to all contributors . I did think I was the only one with these problems. I will try the different ways to deal with it.

  21. I fly a lot and get sick each and every time unless I fly on Korean Air which maintains very clean airplanes. The last flight was yesterday from Europe to the US. Today I am sick with rhinitis. I took every precaution like a spray with a bit of cortisone in it, drank lots of water, kept away from drafts, took an antihistamine, started echinacea, and vitamin C to boost my immunity, but still got sick again. I think that it is the recycled air in most commercial airlplanes. Does anyone have
    anymore ideas as to what can be done to prevent this?

  22. I am quite desperate to find a solution to ling haul travel and allergies. Over the years my allergy has got worse to the point that I came back from a long haul flight from Sinagpore and felt ill towards the end of the flight – body aches, constant sneezing, eye swelling, using all tissues and serviettes I could get hold of to mop up the water literally pouring from my eyes and nose. It has been 48 hours since landing and the allergy is lessening with the help of strong anti histamines but by no means over. I just don’t understand why it affects me so much and why each trip is affecting me more and more.

    I don’t get colds and very rarely even get ill. I am also very fit and very healthy. Generally have an allergy to dairy, air cons, wind, dust, smoke and flowers. Any help or advice would be welcome.

    1. I recently discovered two great products for these conditions: Similasan Nose Sinus Relief Nose Spray and something my Homeopath recommended called Silica 6x (four little dots every four hours for a couple of days. Hope these work for you and of course check with your doctor first.

      All best, Alexis

  23. Every time after I fly I get a rash on my legs and wrists that lasts a few days and goes away; it’s the strangest thing but apparently not that uncommon.

  24. I’m so glad to read this. Every time I fly, my right nostril starts to sting immediately after take off. My eyes start watering, sneezing and running nose, and usually achy feeling.. It’s so frustrating. My family doesn’t ever suffer from this. It’s always me.. I always bring a fanny pack filed with flonase, afrin, zertec, and wallfinate, by the time I land, a jacked up feeling of too much antihistamines and anxiety to get fresh air hits me. This is a real problem and it is ENVIORNMENTAL. I’m a builder and exposed to everything you could imagine dust wise and chemicals.
    The air system traps. It traps because it’s not filtered or cleaned properly..
    I believe the moist air from human breath is expelled into the air, an extreme allergen process occurs and builds up. Each human enclosed in an air tight chamber will expel 1/8 of a cup of liquid into the air in a 4 hour period.
    So it makes sense if 100 people on a plane breaths 1/16 of a cup of moisture into the air on a 2 hr flight x 100 = 6 cups of liquid breath is dumped into the air system per flight.
    2 times a day is 12 cups. 300 times per year is 3600 cups of liquid breath moving through a tight small system annually and never cleaned.. it is probably the most filthy air system on the planet. Your body isn’t broken the air system is. Air travel is competitive and cleanliness is not profitable.
    Thus the alergens. Not to mention automatic colds.. from human transmission..
    It is ENVIORNMENTAL. And in my opinion it is not an auto immune problem. It’s just some humans react very quickly to allergens. Some do not.
    Thank you for the feed. I’ve been wanting to tell my opinion.
    Thank you for the feed.

    1. Tim, I believe you are correct. I work on the ground crew for a major airline, and can verify that cleanliness is not a priority and that the AC systems are NEVER cleaned. I have been suffering from the exact same issues over the years, but only about 10-20% of the time when I fly. Never thought about a connection until it happened to me twice in a week. I am going to keep a log of the aircraft numbers of the planes I fly when symptoms appear. I believe the issue may be if a plane is parked overnite in a hot, damp environment such as Dallas or Atlanta, then the system can easily become contaminated with all manner of mold, fungus, etc. on top of all the exhaled moisture you speak of.

      1. I think you nailed it!..
        as for me it doesn’t happen all the time.. and I’ve never had allergies
        Seems like it comes twords the end of the flights..

  25. As mentioned above, this is likely due to chemicals, dust, pollen, and microbial debris in the ventilation system. If you’re already suffering from allergies, this hit of debris is just going to make your issues many times worse.

    Ways I’ve found to help reduce symptoms after the flight:

    1. Continually blow air out of one nostril at a time into a sink to force out (physically dislodge) as much debris as possible from the nostril(s) that are bothering you. It’s messy, but it allows you to blow out stronger than using tissues.

    2. Place a few drops of Oregano essential oil in steaming hot water. Inhale the vapors. Then hold your nostrils closed. It burns a little, but it helps to kill any microbes that mixed in with the debris. (Oregano essential oil is known to have anti-microbial properties and it’s generally recognized as safe). It may also have some additional soothing effects.

    3. Take anti-histamines and Flonase REGULARLY, according to the instructions on the label, before and during symptoms. Nasal Crom is also a really good OTC spray but, like Flonase, you must start using all of these at least a week BEFORE your flight to get maximum prevention. If you use these after the fact, they still help a little, but far less than using them starting a week before the flight.

    I haven’t tried, but I plan to bring a dust and pollen mask with me on flights. Not all airlines and planes have dirty air, but for those that do, I personally plan to simply put on a high quality dust mask of the type I’d find at home depot.

    Obviously you’ll get no style points for wearing a dust and pollen mask, but the suffering is so intense that I really am little concerned about style points.

    Hope this helps others to get some relief. I’m wondering if as airlines cut back on budgets that’s why this is suddenly happening more often…

    Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Make sure to check with your doctor before taking any of the medicines I mention above.

  26. i too have the super runny nose response and out of control
    sneezing upon landing in planes , but not every flight. i too would like to know why and what can be fdone, i’m
    uncomfortable for 2 days after and am wondering why after many years of flying this is starting to occur now??!!

    1. I think you nailed it!..
      as for me it doesn’t happen all the time.. and I’ve never had allergies
      Seems like it comes twords the end of the flights..

  27. Much has been said about the air conditioning but not about the air itself and it’s source. I remember reading several articles some years ago which pointed to the fact that the air originates from the aircraft engines and could be contaminated with hydrocarbons. Whether this is still the case I do not know, but during a 6 hour flight between Canada and the UK recently on an Airbus 300 I quickly suffered a tingling sensation at the back of my nose and throat , followed by several days of coughing and sneezing once back home. I’m due to make a 19 hour journey to Australia next spring and am dreading the impact that this may have on my enjoyment of my time with the family.

  28. I’ve been reading this blog with great interest as I suffer the same itchy nose then sneezing and runny nose for some time during and after flying, although this does not always happen. It seems to be a recurring pattern on some flights and does not happen by chance. It is definitely an allergic reaction to something. I am perfectly OK when I get onto the plane, and then after a while the now familiar pattern starts. I wonder whether some kind of chemical (perhaps air freshener) is pumped into the cabin during the flight. I have sometimes detected a waft of scent in the air sometime during certain flights. I wish we could get a medical allergy specialist to comment and give some proper medical advice about preventative measures wecan take, or treatment after it happens.

  29. Airbus 321 to and from Canary Isles last week , my nose ran like a tap both ways, runny eyes , stopped within 2hrs of landing. I get this on passenger aeroplanes and places where air-conditioning sprays and fancy cleaning chemicals are used. I could always tell if a locum cleaner had done my rooms at work as my nose would start running within 30mins of starting the day. The regular cleaner did not use the sprays.
    So I strongly suspect there are chemicals introduced into the cabin air. I do not know what specific compounds I am allergic to.
    Oxygen via masks in fast jets never caused a problem.

  30. Shirley, I’m curious about the uni-directionality of your experience. I have a similar experience. I experience these issues mostly when I fly from Hawaii to the mainland USA, but not the other way around and not when i’m flying across the continent. This difference is more pronounced in the winter time. This makes no sense to me since the airplane air should be just as cold and dry in the summer as the winter. However it’s not every time–my flight last week from Hawaii to the mainland was nearly symptom-free, but perhaps that was because I kept a blanket over my nose and mouth for much of the flight to increase the temperature and humidity of what I was breathing.

  31. I sent know if it’s actually the air conditioning itself, but lately when ever I board an aircraft, I start sneezing like crazy and have really bad allergic reactions. I really suffer. I think perhaps it is the recycled unclean air specifically in aircrafts. When I wear those masks like the people in china, I find that I am able to breath significantly better throughout the flight. I remove it one I leave the aircraft.

  32. Thank you all for your comments, as I thought it was just me. In addition to the symptoms (best summarized as “using all the tissues in the plane”), I feel for my neighboring travelers who are certain they’ve just been exposed to a terrible cold.

    My sinuses have never been my strong suit and I am allergic to a long list of suspects. Still, I don’t get anything like this reaction from anything else. While it certainly could be caused by allergies, for me it happens on virtually every long flight. Yesterday I flew DC to LA and the 6 hour flight was torture. However, after a 2 hour layover, I have no real problem on a 3 hour flight to Vancouver. (Both planes were relatively new Boeing 737s and seemed clean, although it’s hard to tell).

    I’m guessing, but I suspect the culprit has less to do with allergies and more to do with the air pressure or humidity in these flights. I haven’t flown on the Dreamliner recently and don’t remember if I had a problem when I did, but I’ve heard they do a better job with air pressure.

    In any event, the planes aren’t likely to change. I’n the future, I’ll be more diligent with Flonase and the other steps outlined here.

  33. For around 10 years now I tend to start sneezing fits around 2 to 3 hours into a flight. I rarely have colds. keep up to date with Flu jabs and when I start the flight I am well with no cold or flu symptoms. Suddenly the sneezing starts, my sinuses collapse and I go through 3 or 4 handkerchiefs. 1 or 2 Paracetamol help to alleviate the symptoms, also on a night flight i pulled the airline blanket over my head and that helped a lot. The flu like symptoms continue fro a couple of days after the flight.
    I certainly believe that the plane’s air-conditioning is the culprit.. There are millions of microbes that live 40,000 feet up in the freezing subzero atmosphere and they get sucked in through the jet intakes and siphoned off to provide the cabin air that we breathe. The pressure is different from normal ground air pressure and the humidity is a lot lower. The air is not filtered or purified. I believe what happens is that combined with the mix of the air already recycled around the plane that I get infected with viruses or germs form other passengers that get re-circulated as well as what may come in from outside. It is highly possible that drinking extra water, wearing a mask with a damp, wetted handkerchief inside for some of the time will help. Also as others have suggested a suitable nasal spray, Benedryl or Paracetamol may all help to alleviate the symptoms. Even getting to sleep through the flight will help. The solution is a work in progress and useful suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

  34. I suffer the same symptoms when flying. I notice however that it also effects my eyes. It feels as if there is something “in” the air. IDK, I guess it will be trains, boats and autos for me moving forward. I fly home in 5 days and I am already dreading it.

  35. I have been encountering this allergic reaction described as sneezing, runny nose and head congestion ever since a flight I took in 2006, never before then. Now I always take an allergy pill days before flying and a nose spray on board. This reduces but does not eliminate symptoms that usually begin suddenly about mid flight or a few hours before landing and last for two to three days afterwards. The suddenness of symptoms leads me to think that maybe something is being intentionally dispersed into the air. I’m glad to read I’m not alone with this condition, but wish we could find the reason for this problem that makes flying so uncomfortable. I wish the airlines would cooperate.

    1. I think you nailed it!..
      as for me it doesn’t happen all the time.. and I’ve never had allergies
      Seems like it comes twords the end of the flights..

  36. I had the same thing a few days ago on a flight from the US to UK (American Airlines). Fine at the start of the flight but towards the end both myself and the person next to me were sniffing away! I still have the irritated nostril two days later. I’ve never experienced this before.

  37. Same here. Wear a surgical mask (or any mask that covers your nose and mouth). Cover yourself up from the cold with cardigan or blanket and especially important is socks for your feet. After years of tormenting flying experiences, I now will not fly without mask and socks. Remember to put on mask immediately upon boarding. Do not wait for nose irritation to start to put on, it will be too late. Hope this teeny bit contribution helps. 🙂

  38. Thanks for the advice. Never wore a mask before, but if it might help, will give it a try. Anything to avoid the 3 days of sniffling after a flight!

  39. I have just return from a trip to Australia from the UK. The 1st flight from UK to Dubai was fine, Dubai to Brisbane it all started, runny nose, sneezing, all the usual symptoms of a bad cold. This all cleared up within a day of my arrival in Oz, so naturally I thought I had dodged it. Numerous flights in Oz & New Zealand, no problem.
    Return flights to the UK were dreadful, within 2hours I thought I had been struck down with Flu, all the symptoms other contributors have mentioned, and all cleared up within 24hrs, but it made the journey unbearable. I’ve been a passenger on countless flights over the past 40years and this is all new to me and quite worrying, is this whats instore for me from now on? I too believe it must be the Aircon causing this quite serious problem, especially for some people who already have allergies, (which fortunately I don’t). Very pleased to find this site, and to realize I’m not alone. I will be contacting Emirates Airline about my experience, and if every sufferer does the same, then maybe, just maybe, something could be done about it…..although I’m very sure they are well aware of the problem, and choose to do nothing, probably because its not highlighted enough & would cost more than they are prepared to spend to rectify it.

    1. I found a remedy. For 2-3 years I started getting the severe allergic attack that others have described but only on long haul flights. Even string antihistamines would not prevent it I would still be in this state a day or two afterwards. I tried these (WoodyKnows SD Nasal Mask, Nose Mask,Reduce Dosage of Nasal Spray When Using Together on the last long haul flight to the UK – no attack going out or coming back. How nice this trip was!

  40. I just got off a flight from LAX to NYC on Jet Blue and this happened to me too. It was very cold on the flight and they don’t give you blankets, but after about 30 minutes I asked and they sold me a flimsy one. Usually I fly United and they give me blankets and I’ve never had this allergy situation before, so wanted to blame in on the airline. I’m still sneezing, nose running like crazy especially out of right nostril and throat tickles. I took allergy medicine before the flight and again now, but it doesn’t seem to help. It’s been about 8 hours since the flight. I have a job interview tomorrow, so I hope it stops! I fly a lot and this has never happened before.

  41. A bit late to the party given the publish date of the article.

    Yes it is possible to have allergic reactions to recycled air. I have severe allergies to an as yet non identified airborne substance (and fragrances) and can have an anaphylactic reaction and am unable to breathe in those environments. As a result my only solution is HEPA carbon filter mask. It makes life hell.

  42. This happens to me as well.
    I’ve just had an NZ airline flight from Auckland to Perth and after a sleep woke up to constant sneezing and runny nose. This has lasted for a few days and I am still suffering a few days later.
    I used First Defence before flying and also take antihistamine tablets as I am prone to mosquito bites.
    I have several flights on this holiday trip but this was the first flight I have suffered so badly. It has happened to me before on a trip from U.K. to USA .
    I am hoping on my journey back to U.K. from Perth next week I won’t suffer but not holding out much hope of a sneeze free flight .

  43. I still have it happening randomnly depending on the flight. If I fly on a dreamliner no problems. Other aircraft I would say 50/50 whether i get this or not. Begins with a sort of pain in the nose and then I know I am in for it. Last flight was in Thailand and my eyes puffed up, could not stop sneezing and runny nose for around 24 hours. I take anti histamines, and nasal spray and strepsils. nothing seems to work it is so random.

  44. I as well think it’s something they are adding to the air or products that are used to clean..
    Always twords the end of the flight

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