Many people complain about getting sick after returning from a trip that required airline travel. Of course they were in close contact with many thousands of people at the airports before boarding and then stuck with hundreds of people in close quarters on their plane flights. Many of those fellow travelors were sick with colds or flu. This article reviews how in addition to people contact, it very likely could be the planes themselves that are incubating and transmitting germs from one passenger to another.
The Journal of Environmental Health Research found that colds may be 113 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than during normal daily life on the ground. Most airlines control their cabin pressure during flight at a level of 11 to 12 psi, compared to 14.7 psi at sea level. At this pressure, there is approximately 25% lower oxygen levels than at sea level. This air pressure is equivalent to being at an elevation of 6-8,000 feet. In addition, the airline’s air being circulated is air-conditioned to some degree, which lowers the humidity, sometimes making your throat, lungs and sinuses feel very dry. These factors combine to cause the following:
1. The dry air makes you more susceptible to infections in your lungs and sinuses. The reduced moisture level in the air being recirculated will dry your nose and sinuses, causing these surfaces to lose some of their germ-protective mucous coating.
2. The recirculated air, except on the latest Boeing 787 aircraft, is just recirculated not filtered or sanitized. So the air coming our of your nearby vents during a flight of several hours has likely been breathed and exhaled by every other passenger on the plane … probably several times. So Mrs. Jones in row 25 far behind you who had a cold and was sneezing throughout the flight had her germs vented directly onto your face.
3. The internal air ducts inside the walls of the planes and air conditioning system never get cleaned out. Any moisture contained in the piping makes a perfect environment for the growth of mold and fungus. The planes themselves are adding an additional source of contaminants besides your friend Mrs. Jones.
4. The change in cabin pressure during take-offs and landings can play havoc with your sinuses, eustachian tubes, and inner ear. If you already have some congestion, the plane’s descent and change increase in air pressure can force mucous into your inner ear trapping an infection.
However, the air is just a minor part of the plane’s contamination. Consider that planes have back-to-back flights and there is little chance for the ground crew to properly clean the seats, armrests and tray tables. In fact, it is very likely that other than removing trash, these surfaces have never been properly wiped down … and certainly never disinfected. Here are some plane surfaces that you may want to avoid touching or at least wiping down with a disinfecting wipe or spray:
- Armrests, tray tables, seat belts, and the air vent controls above your seat. A study by Travelmath showed that tray tables had 8x the bacteria levels/sq. inch than lavatory flush buttons.
- Seat backs, cushions and the pocket for storing your books and personal items in the seat back in front of you.
- The door handles and locks on both sides of the lavoratories.
- The toilet seat, flush button, and sink faucets.
- Aisle seats have even more likelihood of contamination caused by contact with people walking through the plane.
- The carpeted floor might be inviting for you to remove your shoes on long flights for comfort. Don’t do it.
There are a few limited things that you can do to help cut down on germ contact and your likelihood of getting sick:
- Drink a lot of fluids – water – throughout the flight. It will help you from drying out your mucous membranes.
- Try not to touch these surfaces mentioned above … or at least use a tissue or wipe if you need to make contact.
- Wipe down the tray table and armrests with alcohol or some other antibacterial wipe.
- Keep your hands clean. Avoid touching your hands to your mouth, nose or eyes once you enter the airport and the plane.
If you are a serious germaphobe, use an air mask during the flight that is rated for controlling small particles such as viruses, like an N95-rated mask. If you are sick, it would be a great courtesy to your fellow passengers to wear this mask in order to keep your germs from escaping and infecting others.
Several additional things that Seagate travelers use while traveling on planes can help also help:
Spray your nose and throat regularly throughout the flight with these Olive Leaf Sprays –
Use these sprays throughout your flight. In addition to the power of the olive leaf, these sprays will help keep your nose and throat hydrated. Where possible, spray the surfaces mentioned with Olive Leaf Surface Cleaner before they come into contact with your hands.
Airline travel is bad enough these days without worrying about contracting your fellow passengers’ infections. For me it is preferable to just be underwater, visiting some friends like this turtle off the Cayman Islands. This is a protected species. Fortunately he is swimming far from Mexico, where he would eaten.