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Top Tips to Avoid Germs When Flying

Written by: Russell Wallace | Travel Insurance Expert
Last updated: 25 March 2021 | Created: 12 October 2019

Unfortunately, flying is one of the easiest ways to pick up a bug and it’s no surprise – you’re stuck in an enclosed space alongside hundreds of potentially sick travellers for hours on end with everything circulating through the air conditioning. Add into the mix that planes may not be properly cleaned between flights and they’re a perfect breeding ground for germs and viruses.

The good news is, you can do something about it. Here are some top tips to avoid germs when flying.

Before You Fly

    • Eat well and get plenty of rest.
    • If your immune system isn’t at full strength you are more likely to catch a bug, and lack of sleep and stress can affect your body’s natural defences. In the days before your flight, you should consider eating well, getting to bed at a reasonable time and making sure everything is prepared so there’s no last-minute stress.
    • Consider booking a hotel near the airport if you’re on an early flight so you’ve got more time to sleep and eat breakfast before arriving refreshed and stress-free.
    • Pre-book your seat
    • Where you sit affects your chances of catching something. Middle and aisle seats are found to be the most likely place to catch a bug on a plane as you’re likely to come into contact with more people when sitting there.
    • According to research funded by Boeing, the window seat is the best place to sit if you’re concerned about germs as you’re less exposed to fellow passengers.
    • Speak to your GP
    • If you have a pre-existing condition that makes you more prone to catching a bug on the plane, or that could be affected by an illness then it’s a good idea to speak to your GP before you fly.
    • They may recommend that you get a flu vaccination that can help you avoid getting sick. If you’re over 65, have underlying medical conditions or a weakened immune system you can get a flu vaccine free of charge through the NHS. It can take up to 2 weeks for your immune system to respond to the vaccine so give yourself plenty of time before you travel.

While You’re in the Air

    • Avoid using the bathroom on short flights
    • If your flight is relatively short, try to use the bathroom before you take off. Many people will share the airplane bathroom, and they can easily spread germs when they touch the door, sinks, flush handles and toilet seats.
    • Wear socks
    • You may have to remove your shoes when going through security scanners and you may want to stretch your feet while on the plane. Remember that thousands of people will have done this before you and they may not have worn socks – they will have trodden in and spread whatever was on the floor.
    • Keep your hands clean
    • Tray tables will carry plenty of germs as will the backs and tops of headrests – think of how many people have touched these before you! So, it’s worth washing your hands regularly and bringing your own anti-bacterial hand gel on board with you for double protection, use it especially before eating.
    • Remember to make sure the bottle is less than 100ml so you can keep it in your carry-on luggage.
    • Stay hydrated
    • One of the biggest problems that can lead to you getting ill is dehydration. Most commercial airlines fly at an elevation where humidity levels are lower than your body is used to. This causes the natural defence system of mucus in your nose and throat to dry up which can make it easier for cold and flu germs to infect us.
    • There are a few ways to combat this including nasal mist sprays which work by shrinking the blood vessels inside your nose and help to open up the airways.It’s also important to drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine, fizzy drinks, and alcohol as these can dehydrate you further.
    • Bring your own pillow, blanket and headphones
    • If you need to use any items given out by the cabin crew, you have no way of knowing if they’re clean unless they’re fresh out of the packet so carrying your own pillow, blanket, and headphones on a flight may also help you avoid getting sick.

If you have a top tip for avoiding germs when flying, let us know in the comments.