On An Airplane, How To Minimize ‘Catching Something’, Getting Sick, Germs, Infection, Or Worse

October 2, 2014, by Ken Jorgustin

how-to-avoid-germs-on-an-airplane

Airplane Germs. Contrary to popular belief, while flying on an airplane you are unlikely to get sick from the so called ‘recirculated’ air from other passengers, but instead you are more likely to catch something (a cold, flu, virus, infection, ebola?) from the following:


 
First, to dispel the myth that all air on an airplane is recirculated (and that you’re breathing everyone else’s air), today’s aircraft are always bringing in outside air and expelling ‘old’ air.

Briefly, this is how it works:

Fresh air from outside the plane is bled from the engine’s compressors then HEPA filtered, heated, and processed in an air conditioning pack, and pumped into the cabin. Cabin pressure is controlled to approximately 8,000 feet altitude by outflow valves.

Also, in most airplanes the filtered-renewed air does not flow from front to back, but from the ceiling to the floor. This also greatly minimizes cross-contamination of breathing someone else’s air – except from those immediately next to you.

 
Having said that, here’s where you should be concerned – inanimate objects or materials that are liable to carry and transmit infection.

The most likely place on an airplane to ‘catch something’ is probably where you’re sitting.

 

Airplane Aisle Seats Are The Worst For Germs

The worst seats (most likely to contain germs, bugs, infections, virus) are aisle seats.

People will often use the aisle seats to stabilize themselves as they walk in the cabin aisle. Infections will likely pass along from contact made with surfaces touched by the plane’s sick passengers. More people sit in the aisle seats.

 

Airplane Restroom Germs

The typical airplane flight will have only one toilet per fifty passengers; and on some flights that number is closer to 75.

These airplanes typically see many-many hundreds of passengers a day, and when you combine that many people with a 50-to-1 restroom ratio, you start seeing much higher rates of bacteria and viruses. Duh…

Not only the toilet, but the area around the little teenie-weenie sinks are notoriously laden with germs.

 

Tray Tables, Arm Rests, Seat Pockets

Your seat’s tray table, your recycled complimentary pillow, the arm rests, your seat back pocket, the contents of your seat back pocket — these are all likely carriers of germs and ‘bugs’. Just think of all the hundreds of people who’ve sat there before you. How many of them were perhaps ill or deposited their invisible germs?

 

How To Minimize Your Contamination Risk On An Airplane

Bring aboard antibacterial sanitary hand wipes.

Hand Sanitizers:

Study after study has shown that none of these is as effective against the spread of Norovirus as washing your hands with soap and water.

Alcohol-based gels or wipes do not kill Norovirus. Anything marked “antibacterial” but not “antiviral” may not necessarily kill viruses of any kind.

Check the ingredients.
Benzalkonium chloride and Benzethonium chloride ARE effective against Norovirus in concentrations of at least .013%.

Other than washing your hands with soap and water (recommended), you obviously cannot wash other surfaces in an airplane – which is why it’s recommended to carry sanitary wipes with you.

These Antibacterial Sanitary Hand Wipes ARE effective with 0.3% Benzethonium Chloride.

Make sure if you have any open wounds that you have them covered up (band-aid, etc.).

With a sanitary wipe, clean your tray table (only if you’re going to touch it and use it).

Similarly, Wipe your arm rests and head rest.

Do not use the seat back pockets if at all possible.

Make sure you wash your hands before you eat.

Wash your hands (20 seconds) before leaving the restroom.

Avoid aisle seats.

Avoid touching surfaces that you don’t need to touch.

If someone coughs or sneezes next to you, hold your breath for (at least) several seconds.

Similarly, look away from the cough (particles can infect via the eyes too).

Don’t rub your eyes.

Don’t touch your nose or mouth.

Here’s one: Avoid flying altogether 😉

 
What are some of your ideas regarding airline travel while avoiding getting sick?