Dry Eye During Airline Travel

Dry Eye during airline travel can be very problematic for those with Sjögren’s. People who suffer from dry eyes must ensure during the flight that they take all necessary precautions to reduce eye discomfort associated with dry and recycled air from the cabin of an aircraft.

In all modern pressurized aircraft, half the cabin air is fresh air drawn in via the engines and the other half recirculated from the cabin.  The recirculated air is ducted through an air filter before being reintroduced into the cabin.  There is a total air change (filtered recirculated air plus outside air) every 2 – 3 minutes or 20 to 30 exchanges per hour.  Fortunately, for those who suffer from dry eye, there are some precautions to take to limit the impact of this recycled air on their eyes.

Aircraft cabin relative humidity is usually less than 20%, which is quite dry. Although these low levels may be a source of mild discomfort (dry skin and eyes), there is little risk to your health.

Tips to minimize discomfort from eye dryness:

  • Use lubricating eye drops before, during and after the flight
  • Turn off the overhead vents
  • Wear moisture retaining goggles
  • Use a sleeping mask that will retain humidity
  • Drink reasonable amounts of water
  • Limit consumption of alcohol as it can be dehydratinng
  • Avoiding wearing contact lenses during long flights
  • Use a warm compress
  • Don’t watch a movie or read a book – close your eyes and take a nap

Don’t limit your travel this winter. Try these helpful tips to make air travel with dry eyes more manageable.  Bon voyage!