Have you ever come down with a cold after flying?…  If so, you’re not alone. But don’t worry: There are ways to reduce your exposure to germs and contaminated air while traveling.

In airplanes, toxic fuel fumes and recirculated air (spreading the germs from previous passengers) all contribute to a less-than-stellar air quality environment. Airplane air can also be especially toxic due to engine oil leaking into the aircraft air supply, according to Susan Michaelis, global cabin air quality executive researcher and former Australian airline pilot.

“There is … evidence showing air crew and passengers can suffer not only acute short-term effects, but some may become unwell with a range of chronic ill health effects, now being termed ‘aerotoxic syndrome’,” says Michaelis. Both frequent flyers and occasional travelers can be at risk.

Precautions you can take include:

  • If you feel ill from breathing the airplane’s air, notify the cabin crew, especially if symptoms develop pre-taxiing or take-off. Ask for assistance and also request that they record the problem for reporting/analysis purposes.
  • Use a face mask. Adding an extra filter may reduce exposure to airborne germs.
  • To avoid cold and flu bugs from other passengers, drink plenty of water and use hand sanitizer frequently. You may also find it beneficial to take an herbal supplement that purports to boost the immune system.