Germs take flight: How to avoid getting sick on an airplane
Sandra Hermiston and Ross McLaughlin , CTV Vancouver
Published Friday, March 2, 2018 6:00AM PST
Last Updated Friday, March 2, 2018 6:53PM PST
Travelling by air can be a tight squeeze. Passengers are crammed into airplanes like sardines and that’s the last place you want to be when somebody is sick.
The McLaughlin on Your Side team invited family physician Dr. Rhonda Low on board a 737 at BCIT’s aerospace technology campus, to see what the experts do to avoid germs while travelling.
“For starters, I usually wipe down the surfaces that I’m sitting around,” said Dr. Low, “[that’s because] viruses can potentially live on hard surfaces for three to five days believe it or not.”
And the grimiest surface you'll encounter on board is also where you'll rest your food: The tray table.
A recent study found tray tables had 12 times the amount of bacteria per square inch than your toilet seat at home. So take the doctor’s advice and wipe it down, along with your arm rests and seatbelt.
But a preventative measure that’s even better than cleaning around you, involves the tap.
“Stats show if you wash your hands five times a day you have a 45 per cent less chance of beocming ill,” explained Dr. Low.
What about choosing the window or aisle?
“A window seat, especially at the bulkhead, brings you in a little farther. People won't be touching it either,” she said.
And when you're at the airport don't forget the six foot zone. New research shows not only coughing and sneezing, but simply breathing in close quarters can expose you to people with viruses.
But if you think wearing a mask will protect you, think again. It you’re sick it will help prevent you from spreading germs, but there’s little evidence it will protect a healthy person from picking up germs.
To avoid that six foot infection zone, let others board first. That will help keep you out of the crush of people blocking the aisle as they stow their luggage and get seated.
Once you are seated angle the air vent towards you to blow away germs from your face. And stay hydrated, by avoiding too much coffee or alcohol. Nasal spray can also help protect you.
“If you’re dehydrated you’ll have dryer mucus membranes and then you get into this environment which is dryer as well. Dryness increases the odds of becoming infected,” said Dr. Low.
It goes without saying you that the lavatory is a high contamination zone, so you want to make sure you're washing your hands really well. Or try to avoid it altogether by using the airport washroom before your flight.