Traveling by airplane can be super convenient, as it allows you to get to your destination quickly — or, at least, it's supposed to. But while airplanes are often the way to go when traveling, there are plenty of things about them that are incredibly annoying: unavoidable delays and cancellations, uncomfortable seats, high ticket prices and fees, everything about the security process, and, of course, the fact that they are full of germs and could
very easily get you sick. As it's currently flu season, that is something you're probably desperately trying to stay away from, so you may be wondering how to avoid getting sick on an airplane if you have a flight coming up.
First, know that getting sick on a plane is a legitimate thing to worry about. According to
SkyScanner, studies have shown that more than one in five people will get sick with either a cold or the flu after a flight, which is not exactly a comforting statistic. Planes are also known to be full of germs, as many microbiologists have found bacteria literally all over the place. On top of that, a Cambridge University study once showed that going into a different time zone can disrupt a person's circadian rhythm, which can end up compromising their immune system, making them more likely to pick up whatever germs and bacteria are hanging around and get sick from them. All in all, it's safe to say that planes are just gross.
So how can you keep yourself from picking up a cold or, even worse, the flu? Here are a few tips to follow the next time you're going to fly:
Bring Your Own Sanitary Wipes
You want to believe that the airplane crew is cleaning up your seat area before you sit down, but chances are good that they aren't. One anonymous cabin crew member told
The Daily Mail, "Cleaners don't have time to thoroughly clean planes between journeys, as they are under pressure constantly to provide a quick turn-around." It's highly suggested that you bring your own sanitary wipes, like Purell wipes, to wipe down your entire seat area to potentially get rid of any lingering germs.
And that tray table? Please wipe it down carefully. A
2015 study by TravelMath sound that the tray tables contained more than eight times the amount of bacteria that the bathroom flush buttons did.
Avoid Using The Bathroom
Airplane bathrooms are not ideal. They're tiny, cramped, and feel dirty... probably because they
are dirty. According to research, the bathroom is one of the easiest places on a plane to pick up an infection. Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, told TIME that he tested sinks, flush handles and toilet seats on airplane bathrooms and found traces of fecal coliform on each of them. Drexel Medicine, the healthcare system affiliated with Philadelphia's Drexel University College of Medicine, once called airplane bathrooms "one of the germiest places on a plane and a breeding ground for bacteria like E.coli." Just try not to go to the bathroom if possible — and if you do, don't touch anything without using a paper towel.
Even the seat you choose may affect whether or not you'll pick up germs.
Research has found that the best way to stay health is to sit in a window seat. The reason is that when you're in the aisle seat, you come into contact with more people and more germs.
Keep Hand Sanitizer Handy
Keeping your hands clean is always important, especially when you're on a plane. But since you don't want to wash your hands in the airplane bathroom (because it's so full of germs), you should also keep hand sanitzer handy. Dr. Nicholas Testa, chief physician executive at
Dignity Health in Southern California, told The Points Guy, "Keep your hands clean. This means a combination of good hand hygiene with either soap or water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer."
Germs can't make you sick if you aren't bring them to place where they can enter into your body, like your nose, mouth, or eyes. Touching your face, whether it's rubbing your eyes or sticking a finger in your mouth, is a quick way to get sick. Only touch your face if you've just cleaned your hands.
Don't Use The Seat Back Pocket In Front Of You
You know that nice little pocket in front of you that will conveniently hold all of your items? Yeah, you probably shouldn't go anywhere near it. One study from Auburn University found that MRSA germs, which can cause a variety of issues from skin infections to pneumonia,
can survive for up to seven days on seatback pocket cloth. Ugh. Just don't put anything in there.
The air vent might seem annoying, but it can actually help prevent sickness. New York state-based Dr. Frank Contacessa told The Points Guy, "There’s been some research that showed that using the overhead air vent, directed straight downward, can create a cone of protection. It can actually prevent airborne germs from getting close to you. The airflow from the vent can help to ward off another passenger’s sneeze germs.”
One of the biggest reasons so many people get colds from an airplane is the extremely low cabin humidity that is caused by low humidity at high elevations, according to a
Journal of Environmental Health Research study. When there is low humidity like that, it dries up the "natural defense system" of mucus in our noses and throats, creating a better environment for cold and flu germs to thrive. To combat this dryness, drink a lot of water and stay as hydrated as possible. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to infection, and that can often go hand-in-hand with flying. Many people have trouble sleeping on an airplane, and losing hours can also contribute to that exhaustion. If you can't sleep on the plane, make sure you're getting rest before and after the flight.
Bring Your Own Pillow And Blanket
It's nice that airlines often supply you with blankets and pillows, but you probably don't want to use them. Flight attendant Sara Keagle told
The Daily Mail that in her airline's economy class, freshly washed blankets and pillows are only supplied to the first flights of the day. After that, they are folded back up again and reused, and apparently, it's a common practice. You're better off bringing your own!
Try to give your immune system a boost with some Vitamin C, taken before your flight, during your trip, and after your flight. According to
The Points Guy, studies have shown that taking Vitamin C means you are less likely to get sick, so it's definitely worth a shot.