Are you likely to catch a cold, the flu or some other infectious disease when you get on an airplane? A lot of people believe that the close quarters in the cabin make it very easy to pick up a bug.
How to Reduce the Chance You Will Catch a Cold:
A new study that involved observation and measurement of air on ten different flights suggests that air travel is not really as risky in terms of infection as many people think (Hertzberg et al, PNAS, March 19, 2018). There are some precautions that make sense, however.
Choose a Window Seat:
To reduce the chance you will catch a cold or the flu, select a window seat and don’t get up and move around during the flight. Of course, this strategy will work best if the person next to you is healthy. The risk of catching a transmissible infection is greatest for those sitting within two seats and two rows of an individual who is ill. Taking an aisle seat will expose you to a lot more people moving around, and thus to more individuals who might be sick.
Stay Home If You Are Sick:
The research included several flights during flu season, but only one person on all those airplanes was coughing. If it is possible to avoid traveling while you are ill, that is better for you and also for all the other folks you would otherwise encounter.
Wipe Tray Tables and Door Handles with Alcohol:
If you use your tray table, sanitize it with an alcohol wipe. Germs can hang out for days on surfaces like tray tables or lavatory door handles. Nonetheless, samples of the seat-belt buckles did not turn up frightening contamination.
Air travel can disrupt people’s usual health routines, including mealtimes and sleep patterns. Some people may become more susceptible to infection under that type of stress. These precautions might be even more important for them.