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How to Avoid Germs When Flying

plane landing during the evening

There’s nothing like a bad tummy or a nasty cold to turn your dream holiday into a bit of a nightmare. Yet flying can be one of the easiest ways to pick up a bug.

Stuck at 30,000 feet alongside sneezers and coughers, in an enclosed space with everything circulating through the air conditioning, it’s no surprise that your chances of catching something are higher when flying. Not to mention the fact that planes may not be thoroughly cleaned between trips.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to avoid germs while flying. We’ve rounded up some of our top tips to help you prepare…

Before You Fly

Rest Up

Tiredness and stress can weaken your immune system and make you more likely to catch a bug. Spend the days before your trip making sure you’re as healthy as possible; eat well, get plenty of early nights, and make sure you have everything ready in advance so there’s no last-minute stress.

If you have a morning flight, consider staying at the airport hotel the night before, so you can arrive refreshed and stress-free after a good night’s sleep.

Pre-Book Your Seat

Middle seats are found to be most likely place to find germs on planes. A stranger on either side offers two extra chances to pick something up.

According to research, the window seat is the least germ-prone, as you’re less exposed to fellow passengers. Exit rows and bulkheads are reportedly the cleanest spots to sit, so if you’re really concerned about getting sick, try to pre-book these in advance.

Speak to your doctor

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, chat to your doctor or a healthcare professional to see if flying could exacerbate them. Ask if there are any steps you should take to avoid having problems in the air.

You should also let your airline or travel provider know about any serious conditions that mean you require extra help. Most airlines can make special arrangements for those that need them.

Get a Flu Jab

A flu vaccination is one of the best preventative measures you can take to avoid getting sick. If you’re over 65 or have certain medical condition, you can have the vaccine free of charge through the NHS. Get one at least two weeks before a flight so it has time to take effect.


What to Take On Board

Wear socks

Many airports now ask travellers to remove shoes in order to pass through scanners. Unfortunately, these no-shoe zones are rife with germs. Be sure to wear socks so you don’t have to tread barefoot where countless others have.

Anti-bacterial hand gel and disinfectant wipes

Bring your own anti-bacterial hand gel on board with you, and use it frequently. Just make sure the bottle is less than 100ml so you can keep it in your carry-on luggage.

Nasal mists

Low cabin humidity is a big reason people get sick when flying, as it inhibits the natural immune system of mucus in your nose. Nasal mist sprays can be a good way to combat this. Nasal sprays work by shrinking the blood vessels inside your nose, which help to open up the airways.

Pillow, blanket and headphones

Using your own pillow, blanket, and headphones on a flight may also help you avoid getting sick. While the ones given out are probably new, unless they’re sealed there’s no way to be sure. To be on the side of caution, bring your own.


Other tips

Look – don’t touch!

Did you know that tray tables carry more germs and bacteria than most airplane toilet seats? Studies have found that these are often the filthiest part of a plane, so avoid touching them when possible. It may be worth using a disinfectant wipe to wipe down the tray table and the entertainment screen before using them.

You should also avoid touching the seat tops as you’re walking down the aisle of a plane. Think how many other, potentially germ-ridden, hands have done exactly that before you!

Wash your hands

Wash your hands regularly and use anti-bacterial hand gel for double protection, especially before eating.

Stay hydrated

Flights are known for drying the body out, and one of the best ways to stay healthy on board is to stay hydrated.

Drinking plenty of water is a great way to stay fresh and feeling well, and will help stop you feeling tired and dried-out on arrival. Better still, a well-hydrated body is better able to fight germs.

Buy a bottle of water after passing through security and sip it regularly throughout your flight. Try to avoid caffeine, fizzy drinks, and alcohol as these can hinder hydration.