Airplanes are great for travel, but even better for spreading disease. NPR spoke with aviation medicine specialist Dr. Mark Gendreau, and there are two things you can do to help keep yourself healthy.
In an airplane, almost every surface is a danger zone. If you’re going to contract something on an airplane, Gendreau says it’s most likely to come from your seat, tray table, or the door knob of the airplane bathroom. If someone is sick on the plane, there is a good chance of being exposed to it if they’re seated near you. However, Gendreau suggests a couple measures you can take to lower the chances of exposure:
1. Sanitize your hands: Bring aboard a sanitizing gel with 60 percent alcohol, Gendreau recommends. Use the sanitizer before you eat or drink. And then use it after you wash your hands in the airplane’s bathroom. Water on planes has a dirty record.
2. Blow away airborne microbes: To keep from catching a pathogen in the plane’s recycled air, use the vent above your head. Set the ventilation at low or medium. Then position it so you can draw an imaginary line of current right in front of your head. When you put your hands on your lap, you should feel the current. Then if something infectious is floating in your personal space, Gendreau says, that air from the vent will create enough current to knock it away.