More and more airlines are adding more seats to an already crowded airplane. In addition to just being more uncomfortable, it puts us closer together, which increases the risk of contracting germs. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that there is a very small risk of any communicable disease being transmitted on board and aircraft, BUT, they state that transmission of INFECTION may occur between passengers who are seated in the same area of the aircraft, usually a result of the infected individual coughing, sneezing or simply by touch.
Microbiologists have randomly swabbed 10 surfaces on two planes and found numerous bacteria lurking pretty much everywhere, such as tray tables, and inside seat pockets. Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona has collected more than 100 samples form planes in the last six years and found viruses like influenza, MRSA and diarrhea. In 2007, he found four out of six tray tables tested positive for the superbug Staphylococcus aureus. In addition, norovirus, the highly contagious group of viruses was found on one tray. Most of the bathrooms had E.coli. Gerba stated that airplanes are not cleaned enough, with no policy for cleaning and disinfecting.
How to stay well? Though coming into contact with bacteria and viruses is normal in our world, we are really in a packed petri dish on airplanes. And, it is not the air that makes us sick most of the time, but it is the contact with surfaces.
Here are nine things you can do to protect yourself and cut down on your chances of getting sick:
1. Keep Your Immune System Strong. Keep up your defenses with a healthy diet, regular exercise and plenty of sleep. Be sure to get lots of antioxidants in your system.
2. Go To The Bathroom In The Airport. If the flight is short enough, use the bathroom in the airport and avoid going to the bathroom on the airplane. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. The restrooms are rarely sanitized between flights.
3. Carry Disinfectant Wipes. This is especially important if you are planning on eating while flying. Wipe down tray tables, cushions, armrests, seatbelt buckles and windows.
4. Protect Your Hands. Use a handkerchief, or tissue to protect your hands when touching areas you haven’t sanitized.
5. Don’t Touch Your Face. Touching your eyes, nose and mouth transmits germs from your hands to inside your body.
6. Try To Sit Near The Front Of The Plane. Most commercial aircraft provide better airflow in the front of the plane. CDC surveys have discovered that people in the aisle seats were most likely to catch illnesses form other passengers. If you want the aisle seat, wipe down surfaces and avoid personal contact with passers-by.
7. Avoid Coffee And Tea. EPA monitoring shows that airplane water isn’t always clean, and coffee and tea are made from that water, not bottled water.
8. Take Your Own Pillows & Blankets. Airplane pillows and blankets are not always cleaned or replaced.
9. Don’t Read The Magazines Left On The Plane. Touched by hundreds of hands, they are a virtual biohazard. Bring your own reading materials.
Flying off to a fun vacation should be a nice experience. Don’t get sick at your arrival location because of a few precautions you didn’t take. Stay healthy! Till next time.