5 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick on a Plane

November 21st 2016

Thanksgiving marks the busiest travel time of the year, so if you're among the 3.7 million people projected to travel by plane this holiday season, be prepared for a lot of human contact.

Traveling on Thanksgiving can be stressful for those who are worried about coming into contact with sick people in an enclosed aircraft. Certain areas of planes are also rife with germs, as ATTN: reported in September 2015, so it's not unreasonable to worry about what traveling could do to your health this time of year.

If you're concerned about potentially catching something on the plane this holiday season, here are some suggestions for staying healthy and avoiding sickness.

1. Avoid sitting in the aisle seat.

The aisle seat is a convenient for people who like to get up and use the restroom freely without having to climb over the person next to them, but it also has its own set of downsides. Rick Seaney, the CEO of travel service FareCompare, wrote in a December 2013 piece for ABC News that travelers should avoid aisle seats because a lot of people tend to touch these seats for support while walking through the aisle:

"As a sick person makes his/her way to the bathroom, which seatbacks will they be grabbing for support? Think about this when booking a flight during flu system; you may want to re-think your seat selection."

2. Stay away from the tray table.

Tray tableFlickr/Rafael Castillo -

Some people like to rest their heads on the tray table to take naps, but this might not be the best idea. Travel site Travelmath found last year that tray tables are the dirtiest parts of airplanes and airports combined, CNN reported in September 2015. Travelmath came to this conclusion after sending a microbiologist to take 26 surface samples from a few different airports and planes in the United States. 

3. Use a paper towel to open bathroom doors.

This might make you look silly on the plane, but it's better to look silly than get sick. George Szatmari, an associate professor in the department of microbiology, infectious disease and immunology at the University of Montreal, told the National Post in December 2013 that roughly 50 people use one bathroom on a single flight, so decrease the contact you may have with these people by using paper to open the bathroom doors.

4. Carry sanitizing wipes or products with you.

"There are simple measures you can take to minimize risk, with the obvious one being hand sanitizer. It also can’t hurt to wipe things down with a disinfecting wipe — especially if it’s a long flight," Szatmari told the National Post.

5. Drink water.

"Hydration helps keep germ-fighting systems like nasal passages in good working order," Seaney wrote on ABC News, adding that many people recommend drinking water throughout the flight as opposed to gulping it all down in a couple sips. "The latest conventional wisdom on the topic suggests that rather than drinking a big bottle all at once and figuring you've done your part, you should sip water throughout your time in the air."

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