Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten sick after flying! 🙋🏼♀️
Probably everyone has their hand up because it’s a super common occurrence! In fact, the Journal of Environmental Health Research says you’re up to 100 times more likely to catch a cold on a plane than you are in your normal routine. Gross.
Nothing puts a wrench in your holidays like coming down with a cold.
I started to dread flying because I knew I would most likely get sick with each flight I took. That was until I started researching WHY we get sick on planes, and how to avoid cold germs like a pro.
Ever wonder WHY we get sick on airplanes?
Yes, it has a lot to do with a large amount of people all stuck together in a small space, with old air being constantly recycled, but that’s not the whole story. A big part of why we are so susceptible of catching a cold while flying is because of how DRY a plane is. Cold germs love these dry environments.
In a normal day our body will produce lots of mucus in our nose and throat to create a barrier for germs. When we are in a super dry environment like an airplane at 40,000 feet, all that mucus dries out, giving germs easy access to come and infect us.
Another big part of why germs thrive on flights is the shocking discovery that planes are RARELY cleaned! The cabin crew only have a few minutes between flights to do the absolute bare minimum, like empty garbage out of the seat back pockets. It was revealed that many airlines only clean the interior of their planes once a month, once every 6 months, or shockingly, ONCE a year! No wonder germs have a great opportunity to hang out on your next flight.
An undercover expose on airplane germs was performed in 2018 by CBC and their findings were horrifying! They ran tests on seatbelts, tray tables, headrests, seatback pockets and bathroom door handles. Headrests proved to be the dirtiest surface on the plane, testing positive for bacteria like Staphylococcus and E. coli.
So if the airlines aren’t keeping us germ free during our flight, we might have to take matters into our own hands! Here are 10 ways to avoid catching a cold on plane:
10 Ways to Avoid Catching a Cold on a Plane
Before The Flight
Vitamin Up Before Your Flight
If you know you’ll be jet setting in the near future, start taking some immune boosting vitamins a few weeks ahead of time. Vitamin C, B6, E and herbs like echinacea can strengthen your immune system and keep your defence systems in top working order. Find a great multivitamin or fill your plate with foods like oranges, spinach, chickpeas, tuna, kale, grapefruit and broccoli.
Bring Hand Sanitizer
Grab a bottle or two of the travel size hand sanitizer and keep them in your purse or carryon bag. Use it before, during and after your flight. Hand sanitizer comes in handy once you come in contact with high traffic surfaces like escalator hand rails and security bins.
Mind The Bins
On the topic of the bins at security, they are hiding some filthy secrets. The little plastic bins you put your phone, laptop and contents of your pockets in are actually dirtier than airport toilet seats. A recent study showed the bins had the highest number of respiratory germs than any other surface at the airport. And you just picked your phone back up from the bin and put it to your face. Nasty!
After getting through security, wash your hands and disinfect your phone with sanitizer.
During the Flight
Wipe Everything Down
The first thing I do each time I board a flight is wipe down everything. Flu particles can last up to 24 hours on hard surfaces, so I bring on a pack of anti-bacterial surface wipes and go to town. I throughly wipe down the window shade handle, seat back pocket, tray table, arm rest, headrest, seat belt and overhead bin handle. It seems like overkill, but like we learned above, these planes are hardly ever cleaned. The person who just came off the flight could have been carrying a nasty flu virus and I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
Whenever a flight attendant sees me disinfecting every surface around me, I get the ‘respect’ nod. They know whats up.
Wash Your Hands
The most simple kind of advice, but you would be surprised at how many people forget this step. When you use the washroom, read a used magazine, or really touch anything on the plane, give your hands a good wash. And not the quick rinse with water kind of wash, the full on 30 second scrub with warm water and soap.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Since the dry environment is the #1 reason cold germs love to attack us on planes, it’s super important to stay hydrated. This means drinking tons of water non-stop and avoiding alcohol and coffee while in flight.
You should be drinking 8 ounces of water for every hour you’re in the air to avoid hydration. You might even want to increase that amount if you’re on a super long haul flight. (Los Angeles to Sydney for example.)
If you want hydration bonus points, you can use a nasal spray to enhance your body's ability fight infection.
Don't Touch Your Face
I had a doctor tell me once “The mucus membranes are the highway for germs to get inside your body. Don't touch them with your dirty hands.” and I have avoided touching them ever since. Touching your face (specifically your nose, mouth and eyes) with germy fingers will have you hand delivering yourself a cold. Refrain from touching your face unless you have super clean hands.
Wear a Mask
If you really want to up your germaphobe game, wear a antimicrobial mask on your next flight. My husband Trevor is almost psychotic about this point and won’t board without his trusty medical grade charcoal face mask. Yeah he looks a bit like a serial killer with a dark black mask covering most of his face, but he’s loving how germ free it keeps him. Especially when someone with a conspicuous cough sits across the isle from him.
After The Flight
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
Once you’ve disembarked your flight, don’t throw all these sanitary practises out of the window. You still have to collect your bags, get into a taxi or public transit, and check into a hotel room. Keep washing your hands and keeping your fingers away from your face.
When I check into my hotel after the flight, I wipe down a few key surfaces, just like I did on the plane. I haven idea who stayed in the room before me, and I know for SURE that housekeeping did not disinfect every inch of the room. I take 2 minutes and wipe the bedside lamp switch, door handles, bathroom surfaces and TV remote.
Here is a list of things EVERY traveler should do when checking into a hotel room.
Get Some Rest
Even if you did all the above steps like a pro, some viruses could have slipped through anyway. Your best defence now is to get a good nights rest. The Mayo Clinic states that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus.
The best way for your body to fight an infection is to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night after your flight.
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