How To Stop Coughing On A Plane: A Comprehensive Guide

Coughing on a plane can be annoying and disruptive for both you and your fellow passengers. If you find yourself with an irritating cough while flying, you may be wondering what you can do to provide some relief.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over some quick tips to stop your cough as well as longer-term strategies you can implement before your flight to prevent coughing fits at 30,000 feet.

If you need a quick fix, try sipping water, sucking on cough drops, chewing gum, using a saline nasal spray, taking an over-the-counter cough medicine, or applying a warm compress to your throat. But for the most effective relief, you’ll want to understand the underlying causes of coughing on planes and take preventative steps like staying hydrated, managing allergies, and avoiding irritants.

Why Planes Can Make You Cough

Many people have experienced that annoying cough that seems to come out of nowhere when they are on a plane. There are several factors that contribute to this phenomenon, including the dry air, low humidity, and the presence of allergens and irritants.

The dry air

One of the main reasons why planes can make you cough is because of the dry air inside the cabin. The air in an airplane cabin typically has a humidity level of around 10-20%, which is significantly lower than the average humidity level of around 30-60% in most indoor environments.

This dry air can cause the mucus membranes in your throat and airways to become dry and irritated, leading to coughing.

Low humidity

In addition to the dry air, the low humidity in airplane cabins can also contribute to coughing. The low humidity not only dries out your mucus membranes, but it can also make your respiratory system more susceptible to infections.

When the air is dry, it is easier for viruses and bacteria to thrive, increasing the risk of respiratory infections and coughing.

Allergens and irritants

Another factor that can make you cough on a plane is the presence of allergens and irritants in the cabin air. These can include dust, pet dander, pollen, and even chemicals from cleaning products. If you have allergies or sensitivities to these substances, being exposed to them on a plane can trigger coughing and other respiratory symptoms.

To minimize the effects of these factors and reduce your chances of coughing on a plane, there are some steps you can take. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and using a nasal spray or saline solution can help keep your mucus membranes moisturized.

Bringing a scarf or a blanket to cover your nose and mouth can also help trap moisture and filter out some of the allergens and irritants in the air. Additionally, using a cough drop or throat lozenge can soothe your throat and reduce coughing.

Remember, if you have a chronic cough or any other respiratory condition, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before traveling. They can provide you with personalized advice and recommendations to help manage your symptoms while on a plane.

Quick Ways to Soothe an Airplane Cough

Having a persistent cough can be quite uncomfortable, especially when you’re on a plane surrounded by others. Luckily, there are several quick and easy ways to soothe your cough and make your flight more enjoyable. Here are some effective remedies to try:

Drink water

Staying hydrated is key when it comes to soothing a cough. The dry air in airplane cabins can exacerbate your symptoms, so make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the flight. This will help keep your throat moist and reduce irritation.

Additionally, sipping on warm liquids like herbal tea can provide further relief.

Try cough drops or hard candy

Cough drops or hard candy can help soothe your throat and suppress coughing. The sucking action stimulates saliva production, which can help lubricate your throat and alleviate irritation. Look for lozenges that contain ingredients like menthol or eucalyptus, as these can provide a cooling and soothing effect.

Chew gum

Chewing gum can help alleviate a cough by stimulating saliva production and keeping your throat lubricated. Additionally, the act of chewing can distract your brain from the urge to cough. Opt for sugar-free gum to avoid any potential dental issues during the flight.

Use a saline nasal spray

Many coughs are caused by post-nasal drip, where mucus from your nose drips down the back of your throat, triggering coughing. Using a saline nasal spray can help moisturize your nasal passages and reduce the amount of mucus draining into your throat.

This can provide relief from coughing and congestion.

Take over-the-counter cough medicine

If your cough is persistent and disruptive, you may consider taking over-the-counter cough medicine. These medications can help suppress coughing and provide temporary relief. However, it’s important to read the instructions carefully and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications.

Apply a warm compress

If your cough is accompanied by a sore throat or chest congestion, applying a warm compress to your neck or chest can help provide relief. The warmth can soothe inflammation and loosen mucus, making it easier to cough up. Just make sure the compress is warm, not hot, to avoid burning your skin.

Remember, if your cough persists or worsens, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. These remedies are meant to provide temporary relief during your flight, but addressing the underlying cause of your cough is essential for long-term relief.

Long Term Strategies to Prevent Airplane Coughing

Stay hydrated in the days before your flight

One of the most effective ways to prevent coughing on a plane is to stay hydrated. The dry air in the cabin can irritate your throat and make you more susceptible to coughing. By drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to your flight, you can ensure that your body is well-hydrated and better equipped to handle the dry air.

Additionally, avoiding drinks that can dehydrate you, such as alcohol and caffeinated beverages, can also help reduce the likelihood of coughing.

Use a humidifier before and during the flight

Another way to combat the dry air on a plane is to use a humidifier. Using a portable humidifier in your hotel room before your flight and bringing a small, personal humidifier on board can help add moisture to the air and prevent coughing.

Make sure to follow the airline’s guidelines for using personal humidifiers on the plane and choose a model that is compact and easy to use.

Manage allergies with medication

Allergies can exacerbate coughing on a plane, especially if you are allergic to dust, pollen, or pet dander. If you know you have allergies, make sure to take any necessary medication before your flight.

Antihistamines can help reduce symptoms such as sneezing and congestion, which can contribute to coughing. Consult with your doctor or allergist to determine the best medication and dosage for your specific allergies.

Avoid respiratory irritants

Avoiding respiratory irritants can also help prevent coughing on a plane. These irritants can include strong perfumes, cleaning products, and cigarette smoke. Try to sit away from passengers who are smoking or wearing strong fragrances.

If you notice any strong smells or irritants on the plane, consider politely asking the flight attendant if they can address the issue.

Consider a face mask

If you are particularly concerned about coughing on a plane, you may want to consider wearing a face mask. Face masks can help filter out airborne particles and protect you from respiratory infections. Choose a mask that is comfortable to wear for long periods and offers a good level of filtration.

Note that not all masks are effective against viruses, so it’s important to do your research and choose a mask that meets the necessary standards.

By implementing these long-term strategies, you can significantly reduce the chances of coughing on a plane and enjoy a more comfortable and healthy flight.

When to See a Doctor About Your Cough

While most coughs are harmless and go away on their own, there are certain situations when it’s important to seek medical attention. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s best to consult a doctor:

Cough lasts longer than 2 weeks

If your cough persists for more than two weeks, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue. Chronic coughs can be caused by conditions such as asthma, allergies, or even acid reflux. A doctor will be able to evaluate your symptoms and determine the appropriate course of treatment.

Cough produces blood or yellow/green mucus

If your cough is accompanied by blood or thick yellow/green mucus, it could indicate a more serious condition such as a respiratory infection or pneumonia. These symptoms should not be ignored and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Difficulty breathing

If you are experiencing difficulty breathing along with your cough, it could be a sign of a respiratory emergency. This is especially true if you have a history of asthma or other respiratory conditions. Seek immediate medical attention if you are struggling to breathe.

Fever above 101 F

A cough accompanied by a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit can be a sign of an infection. This may include conditions such as bronchitis or pneumonia. It’s important to see a doctor to determine the cause of your fever and receive appropriate treatment.

Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health. If you’re unsure about the severity of your cough or if it’s causing significant discomfort, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice.

Your doctor will be able to provide you with the necessary guidance and treatment options to help alleviate your symptoms.

Other Tips for Managing Cough on a Plane

Ask to change seats if cough is bothering seatmates

If you find that your cough is bothering your fellow passengers, it’s considerate to ask the flight attendant if you can switch seats. This way, you can minimize the disturbance for others while also ensuring your own comfort during the flight.

Many airlines are willing to accommodate seat changes if available, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Bring cough and cold medications in carry-on

It’s always a good idea to pack cough and cold medications in your carry-on bag when traveling by plane. This way, you’ll have easy access to them whenever you need relief from your cough. Make sure to check the airline’s regulations regarding liquid limits and packaging requirements for medications to ensure a smooth security check process.

Use cough etiquette like covering your mouth

Practicing good cough etiquette is essential in any public setting, including on a plane. When you feel a cough coming on, try to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow to prevent the spread of germs.

This simple act can help protect your fellow passengers from getting sick and create a more comfortable environment for everyone on board.

Limit talking to give throat a rest

Airplane cabins are known for their dry air, which can exacerbate coughing. To give your throat a rest and reduce the frequency of coughing, try to limit talking during the flight. Instead, communicate with flight attendants or travel companions through non-verbal gestures or written notes.

This small adjustment can go a long way in providing relief and minimizing your coughing episodes.


– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Coughing and Sneezing Etiquette

– Transportation Security Administration. (n.d.). Traveling with Medications


Coughing on an airplane can make an already uncomfortable flight much worse. Thankfully, with some simple on-the-spot remedies and preventative care before your trip, you can minimize throat irritation and suppress an airplane cough.

Drinking fluids, sucking on lozenges, and using nasal spray can provide quick relief once a coughing spell hits. But staying hydrated in the days beforehand, managing allergies, and avoiding respiratory irritants will go a long way towards stopping coughs before they start while in-transit.

Armed with these tips, you can fly confidently knowing you have multiple strategies to keep airplane coughs at bay. Always remember to cover your mouth when coughing to be courteous to nearby passengers.

If your cough persists longer than expected, it’s best to see a doctor after your trip to treat any underlying condition.

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