Avoid germs on an airplane during business travel

December 18, 2013 |

Traveling is notoriously harsh on the immune system for various reasons. For those with claustrophobia, the prospect of being in an enclosed space for several hours may be the most frightening – in addition to prompting a “trapped” feeling, the germs here have no place to escape to.

Still, there are plenty of things people can do before and during their flight to ease its effects on the immune system and hopefully thwart illness. Here are some of the top tips to share with your team members before they embark on business travel:

In air safety

According to research presented at a 2009 symposium, Research on the Transmission of Disease in Airports and on Aircraft, the air in an airplane is no more likely to make you sick than that in an enclosed office space. However, this might not be too reassuring. According to Stanley Weinberg, who makes individual air filters for travelers through his Los Angeles-based company Wein Products, travelers are cautious about germs in flight:

“Travelers hunker down to see who their neighbors are and are paranoid that they are flying in a sealed infectious hospital ward,” Weinberg said.

And rightly so, it seems. According to a University of Arizona professor of microbiology Charles Gerba, germs lurk on various flight surfaces. He analyzed tray tables and bathrooms on eight different flights in 2007 and found that four of six tray tables tested positive for MRSA, and one tray had norovirus.  Most bathrooms had E. coli, which was most commonly found on flush and faucet handles and sinks.

However, fear not – there is plenty you can do to keep yourself safe before and during flight:

  1. Get a flu shot. If you don’t find the time to get one at your local clinic, know that many airlines today offer flu shots to passengers at their clinics inside the airport.
  2. Use hand sanitizer frequently. Keep it nearby and lather up.
  3. If you only have a short flight, avoid using the restroom if at all possible.
  4. Resist reading the in-flight magazines, which are often covered in pathogens as they are not changed frequently. Also, it’s important to avoid the back seat pocket for any reason – you don’t know what was stored in there on the previous flight.
  5. Take a vitamin C supplement before flying. Some experts believe this could help in boosting your immune system.
  6. When you get on the plane, wipe down your seat, the tray table, armrests and any other surfaces with antibacterial wipes. You can also purchase seat covers and UV scanning lights that are purported to kill germs on everything from airplane tray tables to hotel bedding.
  7. Avoid using shared blankets and pillows. If you’re on a long red eye, purchase or bring your own blanket and pillow so as to avoid germs.
  8. Keep your air vent open for the best possible airflow.
  9. In a window seat, do not rest your head on the window unless you’ve wiped it down first.
  10. Don’t worry too much. Thankfully, the immune system is an amazing thing, capable of fighting off a variety of germs. Just make sure to get as much sleep as possible before travel to avoid the risk of a weakened immune response.