Travelling is stressful as it is, so let’s not add the burden of getting sick from the flight to your itinerary. Experts reveal where the germs are hiding and how to stay healthy and comfortable while airborne.
Please! Don’t walk around barefoot
Flight attendants have seen everything from vomit to blood to spilled food hit that carpet. “We see people walking from their seats into the bathrooms all the time barefoot and we cringe because those floors are full of germs,” said Linda Ferguson, a flight attendant for 24 years. “Never walk barefoot into the bathroom or the galley area because sometimes we drop glasses and there could be sharp glass there, too.”
Skip the ice in your drink
An EPA study in 2004 found that out of 327 aircraft’s water supplies, only 15 per cent passed health standards. Since the 2009 creation of the EPA’s Aircraft Drinking Rule Act, standards have risen and most airplanes don’t serve drinking water from the tap, but their ice cubes, however, are often still made from the same water. “Water tanks on an airplane are old and they’ve tested them and bacteria is in those tanks,” said Ferguson. “I would definitely drink bottled water—that’s why they board tons of bottles on an airplane.”
Ditch your contact lenses
If you can, opt to wear glasses in flight. The air in the cabin is very dry and can cause irritation to your eyes. Also, if you’re a known sky snoozer, falling asleep in contacts not made for overnight wear can be especially irritating.
Don’t turn off the air vent over your seat
If the air blowing makes you chilly, it might be smarter to throw on a sweatshirt rather than turn off the vent. Doctors recommend that the adjustable air over your seat should be set to medium or high in flight so that any airborne germs can be blown away before they enter your personal zone.
Don’t eat food after it’s fallen on the tray table
Yuck! That tray table doesn’t get sterilized between flights, so unless you’ve brought your own disinfectant or place mat, let that cookie crumb go if it hits the tray and not your plate. “The tray table is notorious,” said Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Ferguson adds that tray tables are usually only wiped down once a day, when the plane goes into an overnight station. “Those tray tables are used for all kinds of things,” said Ferguson. “During flights, I’ve seen parents changing babies on top of tray tables. I’ve seen people put their bare feet on top of tray tables.”
Don’t use the blankets
Another airplane item that doesn’t get a thorough cleaning between flights? Yup, those blankets and pillows offered in the seatback are recycled flight to flight and usually don’t get properly washed until the day is over. Items like pillows and blankets are ideal places for germs and lice to camp out and spread from person to person. “I see people wrap their feet in the blankets, I see people sneeze in the blankets,” Ferguson adds.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated
Parched throat mid-flight? Don’t just blame the salty snacks. Airplane cabins are known for their low humidity because the manufactured air in the cabin is made to mimic the highest altitude humans can breathe at, usually between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, according to the World Health Organization. “For every leg of flight, each flight attendant will try to drink a full 16 oz. of water,” said Ferguson. “That’s the most important. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.”