Germs on a Plane
The inside cabin of an airplane.

Germs on a Plane

pathmedical Wellness

Now that we are all starting to travel again and taking flights to our destinations, we need to be aware of the most infectious spots on the planes we board. Most flyers are aware that air-borne germs are often in circulation because of the recycled air that is constantly flowing through the plane. However, because mask-wearing in close quarters is still a requirement (and a good idea) breathing isn’t the only way you could possibly get ill on a plane. Here are some items to be aware of on your next flight:

Aisle Seats
The aisle seats offer you more freedom to move around the plane cabin whenever you desire. However, studies have shown that aisle seats can be a magnet for germs. People who walk past the aisle seats often use the arm rest or head rest to help keep their balance. With all of those strange hands touching the aisle seats, you run a higher risk of picking up a germ or virus you didn’t want or expect, that can cause illness for you or someone you later come in contact with.

Tray Tables
According to microbiologists, the tray tables are often the dirtiest places on the plane. Studies have shown that trays can have thousands of colony-forming bacteria per square inch. They have found traces of Norovirus, rhinoviruses (common cold) and MRSA (antibiotic-resistant) bacteria on the surfaces of these tables. If you can avoid using these tables, you should do so. If you must use a tray table, cover it with a napkin or run a disinfecting wipe over the surface to kill whatever may be living there.

Seatback Pockets
Passengers often treat the pocket on the seat in front of them as a wastebasket, stuffing trash, dirty tissues, used diapers and more into the pouch. Because they are often made of fabric and are impossible to clean effectively between flights, those pockets can harbor bacteria and virus particles. Avoid touching seat pockets at all if possible; use gloves if you must use them, but be prepared to clean anything you stow there. An Auburn University in Alabama study found that MRSA germs survive for up to 7 days on seat pocket cloth — the longest survival on any of the hard and soft surfaces the researchers tested. (1)

Protecting yourself
Handwashing is the best method to prevent most of these dangers, but handwashing on a plane is inconvenient at best, and impractical in most cases. While boarding the plane, wearing gloves is the best tactic to keep your hands clean, but if you don’t have gloves, keep your hands in your pockets or on your own luggage to minimize contact with dirty surfaces. Be mindful of everything you touch even while wearing gloves, to make sure you don’t cross-contaminate personal items in your purse or carry-on bag that you want to keep clean. After your flight, as you leave the plane, go straight to a terminal restroom and wash your hands thoroughly and FIRST, then disinfect the handles of your luggage that you and likely others may have touched with dirty hands, BEFORE using the restroom, getting something to eat, or hugging that significant person who may be there to greet you after the flight. That way, any germs that may have hitched a ride can be sent down the drain before they have a chance to infect you, or your loved ones.

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SOURCES
1. https://etd.auburn.edu/bitstream/handle/10415/4066/Corrected%20Dissertation%20Vaglenov3.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y
https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/195/5/621/841980
https://www.today.com/health/germs-plane-bacteria-can-linger-days-research-finds-t168439
https://www.frommers.com/slideshows/820412-travel-health-8-ways-to-avoid-germs-on-an-airplane
https://www.forbes.com/sites/geoffwhitmore/2019/03/20/how-dirty-are-airplanes/?sh=cd30b992ebb9