How to Protect Yourself from Airplane Germs
What can happen when you take close quarters, re-circulating air and many people? The quick spread of germs and viruses is one of the answers which come to mind.
Are U.S. airplanes really contaminated with germs? A recent study published in the Washington Post and conducted by the scientists from Auburn University was aimed to test how many bacteria can be found inside an airplane. The study results claim that after indoor air quality testing and analysis of the swabs taken from the most touched surfaces, the scientists found 2 potentially deadly bacteria – Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Escherichia coli (E. coli).
The dirtiest airplane places
Both the infections from the last study were found on a tray table. According to another study conducted by U.S. microbiologists who analyzed 26 samples from 4 flights by two major carriers, an airplane table tray turned out to be the dirtiest of all the locations and surfaces. The other 5 dirtiest places on a plane are:
- Drinking fountain buttons;
- Overhead air vents;
- Bathroom flush buttons;
- Seatbelt buckles;
- The stall locks in the restroom.
What are the dirtiest seats in an airplane?
The Wall Street Journal named the 2 most dangerous seating zones on a plane:
- A two-seat radius from your seat, or the so-called “hot zone”, is where you are at the highest risk of catching a virus.
- The aisle seats may seem preferable because they offer much space for stretching your legs, but they can be the dirtiest seats on a plane because people tend to touch them while walking down the aisle and looking for their seats.
For sickness and cold prevention, consider changing your place if you get a seat in any of the mentioned zones.
How can you prepare for airplane travel?
For disease prevention, you may follow these medical guidelines before getting on a place:
- Use a bathroom at the airport and wash your hands. A lot. And don’t forget to scrub under the nails; a recent study showed up to 70 % of germs on hands can be found there. This little trick can help avoid visiting an airplane restroom. Airplane bathrooms can be visited by hundreds of passengers before cleaning;
- After washing your hands, consider wearing protective gloves or using a handkerchief/tissue during the security check;
- The airport security service also demands that you walk barefoot through a full body scanner. Consider wearing socks to prevent germs from getting on your bare feet;
- Bring sanitizing wipes that you may use to clean tray tables, armrests, cushions, windows, in-flight entertainment clickers, and seatbelt buckles before taking your seat.
What can you do on a plane to stay protected from germs?
The following actions during a flight can be helpful:
- Stay hydrated. The atmosphere inside a plane is very dry – the humidity level is about 10%. It may be an enabling environment for the spread of viruses. Dry air may also decrease the natural mucus in your body that works as a natural disinfectant. Consider drinking bottled water as soon as you get on a board.
- Don’t touch your face. It may be a bad idea to touch your nose, lips, and eyes while being inside a plane. Or, at least, use a cleaning wipe or hand sanitizer before touching your face.
- Consider ordering a hot meal. According to multiple studies, heat may kill most food-borne bacteria, so make sure you eat a hot meal while flying. If you noticed that your meal is partially frozen, ask the staff to replace or avoid eating it at all. Alternatively, consider taking your own snacks to have a bite during a long flight.
- Consider drinking your own bottled water instead of onboard coffee and tea. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) claims that airplane water can be unclean – tea and coffee drinks are commonly made of this water, not from bottled water.
- Consider using your own airplane blankets and pillows. The ones that are stored on the plane can be dirty or used beforehand by an infected person.
- Avoid reading the plane magazines because they can be touched by hundreds of hands before you.
- After leaving an airplane bathroom additionally clean your hands with sanitizing wipes, even if you washed your hands. Germs may appear on your hands again from direct contact with the air hand dryers, flush buttons, and stall locks when leaving a restroom. This is one crucial hand washing steps while you are on the plane.
- Consider using the air vent. According to a recent study, the air filters in planes can help passengers avoid 99.97 % of germs. That is why you may want to turn on the personal air vent above your seat.
- For additional protection, you may try using a germ-killing mouthwash to keep your throat moist and clean from the airborne germs.
- Consider using nasal protection. The National Institute of Health (NIH) claims that the airborne germs remain one of the most dangerous sources of a cold virus infection. To create an additional protection layer between your body and germs, you may use a saline nasal spray or mist for keeping the nasal passage moist.
- Wearing a medical face mask can be very helpful. It may seem a bad idea to wear a germ mask inside a plane because the air inside a mask can quickly become hot and stiff. However, a cough mask can serve as good protection from germs. Choose what is more important to you – feeling a bit uncomfortable or being protected.
- Consider storing your stuff somewhere other than in a seat-back pouch. This area may contain a lot of hidden bacteria because people tend to store garbage and tissues in these pouches.
What things can you pack for healthy airplane travel?
Taking into account all of our previously mentioned recommendations, consider packing things for your flight like:
- Antibacterial disinfectant wipes;
- Hand sanitizer;
- Nasal saline spray;
- Disposable face mask;
- Anti-germ mouthwash;
- Organic food bars or protein bars as personal snacks;
- Few bottles of water;
- Your own pillows and blankets.
While traveling on a plane, consider becoming a germophobe for a little while to protect yourself and your family from the possible risks of catching a virus. By being a little extra cautious, you could save yourself days of precious vacation or travel time that you may otherwise spend sick.