What Should You Do If You Get Diarrhea on a Plane?

What if you can't postpone your flight?
by | September 11, 2023

ICYMI, on September 1, 2023,  American carrier Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta, USA bound for Barcelona, Spain diverted due to a passenger who had diarrhea. With 336 passengers on board, Delta Airbus A350 had to return to Atlanta just two hours into the flight to Barcelona because a passenger had diarrhea all the way through the plane, as shown in this clip shared on social media.

“It’s just a biohazard issue, we had a passenger who had diarrhea all the way through the airplane so they want us to come back to Atlanta,” said the pilot upon contacting air traffic control.

According to CNN’s interview with the airline, the flight was delayed for another eight hours, after working as fast as they could to bring the passengers to their destination.

We can’t help but sympathize with all the travelers affected, especially the passenger who was sick. But if you were in his/her shoes, what could you have done? Here are a few practical tips for dealing with diarrhea on a plane.


What should you do if you get diarrhea on a plane?

Eating your way through a new destination is one of the best travel experiences, but sometimes it can lead to traveler’s diarrhea. This can be due to badly prepared or contaminated food, or it can be as simple as ingesting something with dirty hands.

Nobody likes flying when sick, but what if you can’t reschedule your flight?

1. Stay hydrated

With the amount of trips you make to the toilet, which sometimes also involves vomiting, you’re at risk for dehydration. Drink lots of fluids, and it can be as simple as just clean water.

It’s best to drink at least one cup (240 mL) of water every time you go to the toilet.

2. Take medications

Even if you’re only taking a one or two-hour flight, having diarrhea on a plane can be uncomfortable at best, and disastrous at worst. That’s why medications that will immediately stop symptoms, like Lomotil and Imodium (or loperamide), are a good idea.

These medicines will not cure your diarrhea entirely, but they will help stop cramps and provide temporary relief. Note that you should only take Lomotil or Imodium without antibiotics when your diarrhea is mild. If you’ve got a high fever, bloody stools, or other severe abdominal symptoms, you should seek medical attention.

3. Pack accordingly

You’ll be in discomfort when you fly, so it’s better to bring items that will help you feel better. Pack water, antibiotic wipes, tissues, pain relievers, and wear comfortable clothes.

For snacks, bring salty foods like pretzels and crackers, soup, and bring sports drinks. And before your flight, eat foods that are high in potassium such as potatoes, bananas, and fruit juices.

4. Request an aisle seat

Remember that you’ll be in an enclosed space along with other passengers, so limit or minimize your interaction with them. If possible, request for an aisle seat in one of the rows close to the comfort room.


When should you cancel your flight?

You should be fine if it’s just mild diarrhea, but if you experience other symptoms such as fever, chills, or sore throat, it’s better to cancel and book another flight.

Notify your airline as early as possible and don’t forget to check your cancellation policy. You should be able to rebook without extra charges or cancel for a fee. Don’t forget to ask airline representatives what you’re entitled to, especially if you purchased travel insurance, which usually covers medical emergencies.


What are the measures taken when there’s a medical emergency during a flight?


Medical emergencies during a flight are actually uncommon, as supported by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. It discovered that medical emergencies only occur in 1 out of 600 flights.

via Pexels

Of course, the cabin crew is trained to handle emergencies and would conduct necessary procedures, such as CPR, or administer needed medication. In some cases, the crew would ask if there is a medical professional on board who can help assist in procedures.

But the decision of whether to divert the plane or not still lies within the pilot and flight dispatcher as Healthline reports.


Have you experienced an in-flight medical emergency before? Share in the comments below!


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When she’s not writing, Ina’s busy curating playlists that will save her when words don’t work, reading, annoying her cat, or thinking of her next meal.

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