How to Avoid Getting the Flu (or Worse) On an Airplane

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With the Ebola scare, many travelers are likely more worried than ever about germs and illnesses on a plane.

The good news is that an airplane is probably not the airborne petri dish you envision. The bad news is that planes are by no means germ-free.

You’ll likely breathe easier on your next flight knowing that the cabin air is clean. According to The New York Times:

Air in a plane’s cabin is a mixture of compressed air drawn in from outside and filtered, or recirculated, air. “It all goes through HEPA filters, which are really good at getting particles,” [Richard] Aboulafia [aviation analyst at the Teal Group Corp.] said. “The objective is to filter out all particulate matter,” he added, since germs can be transmitted by hitching a ride on airborne particles.

The bigger risk to airline passengers is the surfaces they touch. Germs tend to reside on the seat upholstery, tray tables, armrests and door and toilet handles. And if pillows and blankets are available on the flight, don’t use them. There’s no way to know when they were cleaned.

According to USA Today, travel experts recommend flying with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Decontaminate the area you’ll be sitting in with the wipes. And use a tissue or paper towel to open doors and touch handles. Be vigilant about washing your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.

Airlines reported having cleaning procedures in place, the Times said. But there’s really no way to tell how clean the plane really is, as the thoroughness of the cleaning is left up to the airlines.

But your best bet for staying healthy on your next flight is to board the plane in good health. A strong immune system is a good defense against germs.

“Get plenty of sleep before you travel. People who are sleep-deprived get more infections than those who get adequate sleep,” Dr. Abinash Virk, an infectious disease expert with the Mayo Clinic, told Frommers. Virk also noted the importance of staying hydrated.

What do you do to protect yourself from germs and bacteria when flying? Share your tips below or on our Facebook page.

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