Does Putting Neosporin Up Your Nose Keep You From Getting Sick on a Plane?

For many of us, the scariest thing about flying is not the threat of turbulence but the dreaded spread of germs that happens when air continuously circulates inside of a metal tube for hours on end. Because of this, you may have tried a trick or two to prevent yourself from getting sick after a flight. One gem of advices popular on the Internet is a doozy: Putting antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin) up your nose in an effort to kill germs and keep you from getting sick on a plane. But does this actually work?

The short answer is no. “The application of an antibiotic ointment into the nostrils to prevent infection on flights is not going to prevent the transmission of viruses, which are the most common airborne infection spread between people,” says Erich Voigt, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat surgeon at NYU Langone Health. “Viruses can enter the body and cause infection by entering the eyes, the nose, or mouth. Antibiotics are not effective at all in preventing or fighting viruses.”

That said, the antibiotic ointment isn’t completely useless. “The moisturizing effect of a topical antibiotic, or of a saline gel or saline spray may, make the nasal mucosa less prone to a viral particle entering the mucosa.” In other words, it can help fight desert-dry plane air, which can dry out the inside of your nose and cause microscopic tears that make you more vulnerable to viruses.

How to fight germs on an airplane

If you’re looking to prevent yourself from getting sick, forget the Neosporin and focus on keeping well hydrated. Voigt also says you should “avoid touching unclean surfaces and then touching the nose or rubbing the eyes” since this transmits germs from the surfaces to you. Airplane seats are notoriously germy, so if you want to prevent infection, bring a pack of disinfectant wipes with you to wipe down the tray table, armrests, and seat itself. At the very least, throw a bottle of hand sanitizer in your carry on.

According to Maggie Berghoff, functional medicine expert and nurse practitioner, there are other things you can do to keep from getting sick on a plane. These include: Boost your immune system with fruits and veggies, consider traveling with organic green juice packets to put into your water on the plane, and avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates such as pasta and breads. The last bit may be particularly helpful, if painful to hear, because “they can cause inflammation in your body and plummet your immune system, allowing you to be more likely to catch whatever illnesses are doing around,” she says.