Was it the guy behind me who kept coughing? Maybe the little girl across the isle, the one with a runny nose the color of a lime popsicle. These are common questions we may ask ourselves after we fly on a plane only to bring unwanted house guests home – germs. The ones that carry the flu, a cold or worse.
Did you know traveling on a plane can increase your chances of getting a cold by as much as 20 percent, this according to a study cited by the Wall Street Journal. I don’t think that’s too surprising, what is though is how those germy house guests make their way home with us.
It’s a common misconception that it’s the recycled air on the plane that causes germs to spread. But studies have shown HEPA filters, which are on most airplanes can capture 99.97% of bacterial and virus-carrying particles. So even though you’re trapped in the same recycled air, it’s likely not the fault of the little girl with a runny nose the color of a lime popsicle or the backseat cougher. It’s more than likely something you touched before you popped gum in your mouth at take-off.
Eight Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When You Fly
1. Drink Water: Make sure that you have a healthy dose of water in your system to counteract any sort of problems that might come with dehydration during air travel. These can be things such as stomach problems, headaches, fatigue, cramps, and other forms of discomfort. However, the main reason you want to drink water is that it is a healthy, easy way to naturally boost your immune system. Sip water regularly throughout your flight to keep your airways moist.
2. Bring Your Own Alcohol: Hand-sanitizer that is. Doctors and the CDC suggest traveling with (and using) alcohol-based hand sanitizer and wipes with at least 60 percent alcohol. These may dry your skin a bit more so pack some lotion as well. You need the alcohol-based products to truly kill the germs.
3. Clean Your Hands. This should be a no-brainer, but it is especially important to be vigilant while you are traveling in the air and try to avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes. This will go a long way in protecting yourself on a plane. Airplane restrooms are notorious for harboring germs. They are small cramped spaces and the biggest thing most people want to do is get out of there and back to their seat! So to make sure that you don’t get the flu when you land, wash your hands when you are finished. You might even want to wash them a few times throughout the flight.
4. Clean Your Tray Table (and seat belt buckle): Both your tray table and seat belt buckles have been identified at two the most germiest places on an airplane. Carry some alcohol-based hand wipes that will outset those unwanted seatmates (the germs of course).
5. Vitamins are Important. You might think that you take a multivitamin every day and you are safe. However, take it right before you fly to go ahead and prime your system with the nutrients it needs to fight off infection. In addition to a multivitamin dose, try taking a couple of extra doses of vitamin C two or three days before you travel.
6. Keep Your Mouth Clean. Often times, the mouth is overlooked as an entry point for germs. However, all it takes is one wayward sneeze, or misplaced cough, and you instantly have germs trying to permeate your skin. The best way to prevent germs from entering your mouth is to swig a bit of mouthwash before the flight. Also, you can take some in-flight too, so long as your bottle does not exceed the three-ounce rule for liquid products.
7. Pack Your Own Pillow: Ok, not really because that would simply take up too much room but a neck pillow works wonderfully. You should avoid using the pillows and blankets the airlines provide. This is unless they are sealed in a plastic bag, which means they’ve recently been laundered. If you opt to buy your neck pillow make sure its one that can be washed (and wash it after your travels).
8. Face Mask. When all else fails, where a facemask. The C.D.C. says that N95-type face masks, filter out 95 percent of particles and have been up to 90 percent effective in warding off infection. However, then you’re “that person” on a plane wearing a face mask… You might freak out a few travelers nearby so explain to them what you are doing. The last thing you want to have happen is for half the flight passengers and crew to think that you have the flu or something worse. Simply explain that this is a preventative measure and all should be well.
These are a few of the best ways to avoid getting sick when you fly. However, there are other ways as well. Keep yourself covered. Wear gloves, and long sleeves (if you can), and protect your skin with a lotion of sorts. Would love to hear any tips you have on how to avoid getting sick when you fly in the comments.