If you’ll be traveling this holiday season, the last thing you want to bring to your destination is an illness, yet we’ve all read the studies and seen the news stories about how filthy airplanes can be. If you keep a few things in mind, you’ll likely be able to enjoy the season’s festivities without a bottle of Nyquil. While nothing is fool-proof, here’s how to avoid getting sick while traveling.
Boost your immune system before the flight. Any time you know you’re going to be in an area with a high volume of other germy humans, it’s best to assume viruses will be present. Take extra care of yourself just before the trip so that your body is prepared to fight invaders. Hydrate, take vitamin C supplements, exercise, and get enough sleep. The holidays are especially hectic times when we tend to run ourselves ragged, so make self-care a priority to stay healthy.
Wash your hands, use alcohol hand sanitizers, and disinfectant wipes. Take common sense a step further and assume that while you’re at the airport or on the plane, you are constantly coming in contact with invisible filth. Studies show that train of thought isn’t entirely wrong, as evidenced in the next few points.
Be aware that TSA bins are dangerously filthy. Tests have shown these bins have the highest levels of dangerous bacteria of anything else in the airport. Remember, shoes go in these bins, as do bags that have been on the floor (in some cases, the restroom floor). The bins are rarely, if ever cleaned, and are recycled multiple times a day with thousands of people’s belongings. Consider that anything you put in the bin is coming out contaminated.
Drinking fountain buttons and bathroom stall locks are crawling with germs. Coming in at a close second and third for high concentrations of bacteria in airports are these two culprits. So wash your hands with soap and hot water when you use the facilities, and use your sleeve to press the button, if you simply must drink from the fountain.
Limit contact with surfaces in the airplane bathroom. Avoid these surfaces if you can, or wash and use hand sanitizer thoroughly after leaving the restroom.
Stay out of the seatback pocket. Travelers may use air sickness bags and return them to these pockets without telling anyone. Others may leave dirty tissues behind. Because of quick flight turnarounds, flight attendants simply don’t have the time to clean the plane in between passengers the way they should.
Tray tables and seatbelt buckles are notorious culprits. Time and again these items have tested positive for all kinds of nastiness (and often, you’ll hear of people changing baby diapers on those trays). Don’t leave home without a travel pack of disinfectant wipes, and clean these hubs of bacteria before touching them.
Hopefully, by keeping this information in mind, you’ll be armed to fight sickness during your travels, and not scared away from flying altogether. Germs are everywhere that people are, and in some studies, air travel has been found to be no filthier than shopping malls, theme parks, and sometimes, even our own homes! When in doubt, just wash your hands. Cheers to a healthy holiday vacation!