10 ways to avoid getting ill on a plane

10 ways to avoid getting ill on a plane

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Well, to start off on a positive note, travelling by plane doesn’t necessarily increase your chances of getting the flu or cold more than being in pretty much any other crowded place. But no one likes having a snotty nose for a week so here’s a basic guide on how to avoid it

Allegedly, more than every one in five people on a plane will get ill after their trip. Before you start blaming your next seat neighbour, though, you should know that simply breathing the same air as them is not the biggest cause of contracting some virus or bacteria.

#1 Wipe down surfaces you touch

Germs can survive for about seven days on an aeroplane. While it is true that they survive longer on porous surfaces than on the smooth, flat ones, places such as the armrest could be the perfect place to spread them. 

There are other “danger zones” to keep in mind, including the seat tray tables, window shades, or the in-flight travel magazine. Actually, avoid touching even the seat pocket at all times as it often serves as storage for people’s used tissues, remnants of meals, or even baby diapers.

While not touching these surfaces could be an option, it’s very unlikely you could go the entire time on your long-haul flight without it. Use sanitary wipes or an environment-friendlier alternative plus detergent or even soap.

#2 Drink plenty of water but avoid drinking water served on planes

No one really knows when and how often water tanks on a plane get cleaned. Bring your own (reusable) water bottle — ShutterstockNo one really knows when and how often water tanks on a plane get cleaned. Bring your own (reusable) water bottle — Shutterstock


Since the air humidity on a plane is considerably lower than in an average climate, travellers can get dehydrated quite easily. 

However, the cleanliness of the water served on planes has been a topic of discussion in recent years. Even though the water tanks in which the water is stored do get cleaned, no one actually knows when or how often it happens. It concerns both cold water and hot beverages, such as tea or coffee. 

Bring your own bottle, fill it in at the airport after the security check, and drink plenty to stay hydrated.  

#3 Wear a face mask

Wearing a face mask is an easy way to avoid some airborne germs.

#4 Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Often

#5 Do not touch your face, including mouth, nose, and eyes

#6 Be wary of plane pillows and blankets

In an ideal world, the airline-provided pillows and blankets would be washed and germ-free before each flight. The truth is, they usually don’t get much attention in between flights. 

One option to avoid using these would be to bring your own pillow and blanket (give them a wash too, if possible, as they can transmit germs as well). However, especially if you’re travelling with just hand luggage, it might not be always possible to pack in a whole extra blanket. Instead, wear a sweater or use it as a pillow to rest your head on. If you absolutely cannot avoid using the blanket provided to you on a plane, use it only for your legs.

#7 Skip the alcohol

It might be tempting to have a few drinks, especially if they’re complimentary or offered during the mid-flight happy hours. Having a drink can help you relax, fall asleep, or make time seem to go faster.

However, alcohol will only dehydrate you more so it’s better to skip it altogether.

#8 Get enough sleep and rest before, during, and after your flight

#9 Choose the right seat

People queuing up for the lavatories usually means the aisle seats are exposed to more germs than the window seats — ShutterstockPeople queuing up for the lavatories usually means the aisle seats are exposed to more germs than the window seats — Shutterstock


Even though it might be convenient to sit near the lavatories on a plane, it could also increase the chances of becoming ill. People queueing up to visit the toilet right next to your seat — some potentially already ill — might be the perfect source of germs. 

Seats closer to the toilets therefore generally encounter more germs than those further away. Similarly, aisle seats are exposed to more germs as well. 

On the other hand, even though a middle seat might be a better option when trying to avoid getting ill, it might possibly give you a flight-long headache.

The possibilities of seat allocation depend on the airline and you can inquire about the availability prior to your flight.

#10 Eat well

Eating on a plane might be quite tricky. Airlines generally offer a range of food options, including very unhealthy to somewhat healthy ones. Avoid salty, sweet, or greasy foods and opt for more healthy alternatives, such as nuts or food that helps rehydrate you.

Nowadays some flights allow you to view the in-flight menu and order your meal prior to the flight to ensure you’ll be eating a healthier option.

If you can, start taking vitamins or supplements for a few days before your flight to help boost your immunity.



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