Whether you live with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) like me, have a weakened immune system, or simply prefer to avoid other people’s germs, getting on a plane can be stressful. If you’re hoping to avoid getting sick on your flight, you might want to check out our ultimate guide for how to pack a carry on backpack.
Germs are lurking on airplanes and can make you sick. This post will discuss the ways you can stay healthy to avoid ruining your trip. We’ve got recommendations for what to pack to kill viruses on your flight!
Related post: Ultimate Guide to Hotel Stays for Germaphobes.
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How Germs Are Spread on Airplanes
To prepare for this post, I did a little research and found a recent study that concentrated on the spread of influenza (“flu”) on an airplane. The conducted the experiment during flu season (when I avoid flying). Here are two main points:
- If you’re sitting next to someone who has the flu, the chances of you catching it are around 80%. Yikes.
- If you’re sitting more than two rows away from that person, the risk drops to 3%.
Okay, that’s good information! Now, you might be wondering how illnesses are transmitted on airplanes. Knowing this can help you avoid catching a cold, flu or even a stomach virus:
- Airborne respiratory disease is primarily spread through droplets from coughs, sneezes, or just breathing.
- The droplets can be inhaled or land on hard surfaces such as tray tables, seat backs, or faucets in the bathroom, which can remain infectious for days.
- Diseases can also enter our bodies when we touch our eyes, nose, and mouth with contaminated hands.
- Being dehydrated (airplanes are dry!) can increase your risk of infection.
- Longer flights might result in increased exposure to germs.
How to Protect Yourself From Germs on Your Flight
The researchers reasoned that passengers could catch the flu in three main ways: sitting within the infection zone, walking by the subject on their way to the bathroom, or having the subject walk by them. Additionally, coming in contact with contaminated surfaces and failing to clean your hands is another.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from germs on your flight:
- Keep your hands clean and sanitary.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with dirty hands.
- Clean your hands before eating.
- Bring your own bottled water and stay hydrated.
- If you take a drink from the flight attendant, skip the ice.
- Sit in the window seat. It can help create a barrier (at least on one side!).
- Wipe down your tray table, seat belt, seat back, and armrests.
- Avoid the bathroom (and at least wear shoes is you really have to go!).
- Turn away from people who are coughing, sneezing, and blowing their nose.
According to research, the ultimate ways to avoid getting sick on your flight are: don’t get up more than you need to, sterilize the tray table, and avoid the toilet. Yes, this is harder on long-haul flights, but it’s possible — trust me! Now, let’s talk about the products we use to stay healthy while we travel.
This is pretty standard stuff for people who want to avoid germs, but make sure you have hand sanitizer the next time you fly! Because TSA restricts the size of liquids you can carry, bringing a normal pump can be a little tricky, but we know how to get around it! Also, be sure to read TSA Precheck: Can It Help Travel Anxiety?
By buying several smaller containers, including the convenient ones that clip onto your bags or belt loop, you’d be amazed by how much sanitizer you can actually take on your flight! And here’s the extra bonus — you’ll have easy access to sanitizer for the rest of your trip, too!
Years ago, you’d never see someone wearing a face mask or surgical mask out in public in North America, but the times they are a-changin’! Now, it’s not uncommon to see celebrities sporting their own surgical masks to protect themselves during a particularly rough flu season. We’d definitely recommend this as a way to avoid getting sick on your flight!
You never know what you’ll encounter on a flight, and it’s always possible you’ll be just fine. If you happen to be surrounded by passengers who have a cough or the sniffles, having a face mask in your bag can give you some peace of mind. Note: we like to store ours in baggies to keep them clean as we travel.
Let’s not talk about how gross the seat, armrests, tray table, and seat belt can be on a plane. And… let’s definitely not talk about what’s happening in the seat pocket (don’t touch this!).
When you first board your flight, take a few moments to wipe things:
- Arm rests
- Tray table
- Seat belt
- Window blinds
- Overhead lights
- Air vents/Call button
- The wall beside you (in case you lean against it while taking a nap)
As one our of carry-on essentials, we prefer Clorox or Lysol wipes. If you’re in a pinch and can’t find them, most places sell small packs of Wet Ones. Just remember to choose the ones that are antibacterial if you’re planning to use them to clean up your seat or even wipe your hands before eating!
Planes can get pretty noisy, but even the sound of the engine and onboard chatter won’t drown out the sounds of a cough or sneeze for a germaphobe. We are keenly aware of where all the sickies are sitting, and while you’re on a flight, there’s nothing you can really do about it.
The best thing you can do is stay calm and find a way to distract yourself or ignore it. That’s a lot easier to do if you can’t hear the coughing or sneezing! Investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones could make your flight a lot easier to endure.
There’s no way you’re going to want to drink the water on a plane. Even if it’s in a hot tea or coffee — just don’t do it!), so be sure to grab a bottle of water from the shop after you’ve passed through the security checkpoint. Of course, those can get expensive, so you may want to bring your own water bottle (we like the collapsible ones while traveling!).
Our suggestion to avoid getting sick on your flight is to skip anything with an exposed spout or straw because those are most easily contaminated. Have your bottle all picked out? You can refill it with water from the restaurants or dispensers if you trust them. Many airports have dedicated water bottle refilling stations near standard water fountains, so you can refill your bottle without putting it near where other people’s mouths have been!
The Right Snacks
You’ll need sustenance on your flight, especially if it’s a long one, and airlines just don’t provide great options anymore. Even if you’re offered a meal, you might still have a hard time trusting it enough to eat it. Trust me, we understand! It’s amazing you’re on the flight at all, so don’t feel pressured into eating something that will make you uncomfortable.
Pack your own snacks before leaving home, but do it mindfully. Choose things that won’t require you to lick your fingers. In fact, you could avoid things that require you use your hands at all. Granola bars, jerky, and similar items can be eaten straight from the package without you even having to touch it!
Our bodies are designed to protect us from harmful germs and bacterial, but sometimes it can use a little extra boost. We like to pack things that will support and encourage our body’s natural immune response. Even if they’re all a sham, you can’t argue with how certain things help put your mind at ease. Here are a few other carry-on essentials that we like:
To learn more about how we use these products, please read our Natural Remedies for Healthy Travel blog post. We provide a clear overview of what to use and how to use it.
We personally believe that these strategies can help you avoid getting sick on your flight. No matter what anyone around you thinks, though, pack whatever you need to feel safe and calm on your next trip. Whether it’s legitimate protection for your health or the placebo effect, do things that help you continue on your journey. Every successful trip will help you build confidence, so do whatever you need to do to accomplish that! Bon voyage!