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  • Writer's pictureMaria Cholakova

Why People Get Dry Eyes on a Plane? Causes & Prevention

Traveling by air can be an exciting experience, but for many passengers, it comes with an unwelcome side effect: dry eyes. It's quite common for people to get dry eyes on a plane, leaving travelers with itchy, irritated, and red eyes. But why does that happen? What can be done to alleviate the dryness and discomfort during flights? Let's delve into the causes of dry eyes on a plane and explore practical solutions to keep eyes comfortable during air journeys.

Causes of Dry Eyes on a Plane

1. Low Humidity Levels

Airplane cabins are notorious for their low humidity levels, often ranging between 10-20%, compared to the 30-60% in most indoor environments. The dry air can quickly evaporate the moisture in your eyes, leaving you with extreme dryness and irritation in the eyes, and nasal and mouth cavities.

2. Air Ventilation Systems

Ventilation systems in airplanes circulate air to ensure a supply of fresh oxygen. But they also contribute to dry eyes. The constant flow of air, especially when directed towards your face, can aggravate eye moisture loss.

3. Extended Periods of Inactivity

During long-haul flights, passengers often engage in activities like reading, watching movies, or using electronic devices. These activities tend to reduce the blink rate, essential for spreading tears across the eye's surface. Fewer blinks mean less lubrication and more dryness.

4. Contact Lens Usage

Passengers who wear contact lenses may experience more severe dry eye symptoms. Contacts reduce the oxygen supply to the eyes and absorb the tears that keep them moist. So the sensations of foreign bodies and eye discomfort in the already dry cabin air are quite normal.

4. Age and Pre-existing Conditions

Older passengers and those with pre-existing dry eye syndrome are more susceptible to experiencing dryness during flights. Aging reduces tear production, making it harder to maintain eye moisture in low-humidity environments.

How to Prevent Dry Eyes During Flights?

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water before and during your flight can support tear production. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate the body, is also advisable.

Use Artificial Tears

Artificial tears or lubricating eye drops provide immediate relief and maintain eye moisture. Apply them before boarding and periodically throughout the flight to keep your eyes comfortable.

artificial tears for dry eyes on a plane

Adjust Air Vents

Direct the air vents away from your face or close them to reduce the direct flow of dry air over your eyes. This simple adjustment decreases tear and moisture evaporation during flights.

Take Breaks from Screens

If you plan to watch movies, play on your phone, or work on your laptop on a plane, take regular breaks to rest your eyes. Making an effort to blink more often will help reduce eye strain and dryness.

Wear Glasses Instead of Contacts

If possible, opt for glasses instead of contact lenses during your flight. Contacts are eye-drying even when you are not flying. Glasses create a barrier to retain moisture around your eyes and strain them less, reducing the risk of getting dry eyes on a plane.

Eye Masks and Eye Shades

Bring an eye mask if you intend to sleep on a plane. Otherwise, you may wake up from your nap with your eyes itchy and dry. Masks and eye shades create a barrier between your eyes and the dry airplane air.

Choose Your Seat Wisely

Window seats tend to be drier than aisle seats. That's due to their proximity to the plane's wall. Choosing an aisle seat can expose you to slightly better air circulation.

woman on aisle seat with eye mask against dry eyes on a plane


Understanding why dry eyes during flights are so common and taking proactive measures can better in-flight comfort. By staying hydrated, using lubricating eye drops, adjusting air vents, and making smart seating choices, you can mitigate the effects of the dry airplane environment.

Whether you're a frequent flyer or an occasional traveler, following these tips keeps your eyes comfortable so you can fully enjoy your journey without dry eyes.



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