Airline Cabin Air Negatively Impacts Dry Eye: Strategies for Coping

Airliner flying past the sun - in blue skyWhether for business or pleasure, most of us travel by airplane from time to time.  While airline flights are efficient for getting to distant locales, if you have dry eye or use BostonSight® PROSE devices, airline travel can present some challenges. A little extra planning and preparation before catching a flight out of town can help ensure a safe and comfortable vacation without interruption from eye health concerns.

If you have dry eye and have traveled by plane, you probably noticed an impact on your symptoms. A March 2013 study in the Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science journal took a close look at the impact of in-flight cabin air on dry eye disease. Researchers developed a controlled environment to simulate airline cabin conditions (23°C, 5% relative humidity, localized air flow, and 750 mb of barometric pressure) as well as a standard controlled environment for comparison (23°C, 45% relative humidity, and 930 mb). Study subjects with diagnosed dry eye disease spent time in these environments. Before and after the exposures, subjects answered dry eye symptom questionnaires and underwent diagnostic tests to determine the environmental impact on their eyes. After exposure to the airline cabin environment, dry eye patients were more symptomatic and experienced a decrease in tear stability and volume. Based on these findings, researchers advise dry eye patients to use therapeutic strategies to minimize the impact of air travel on their eyes.

Some suggestions for more comfortable flights are provided by the Dry Eye Zone. These three simple strategies can go a long way toward helping you manage eye symptoms during flight:

  • Drink up to reduce dehydration
  • Lube up often with artificial tears or heavier eye surface lubricants
  • Cover up with an eye mask or goggles to prevent excessive drying

Don’t forget to turn off the air vent over your seat and make sure your eye care supplies are with you in your carry-on luggage and not in your checked bag.