flying increases chances of getting ill


These are tricky times when it comes to day-to-day risk management. While lockdown restrictions may have loosened as COVID-19 case numbers fall in many parts of the world – including the green light being given to international travel once more – the pandemic is most definitely not “gone”.

So, whether you’re eager to make the most of your summer by jetting off to exotic climes, or you simply have an overseas business trip coming up, it’s fair to say that you’ll need to put a bit of thought into how you can minimise the likelihood of becoming unwell while in the air.

Indeed, even before the recent coronavirus outbreak truly ‘took off’ (sorry), more than a fifth of plane passengers were apparently getting sick on a flight. So, here are some of the sensible steps we would advise you to take to further lessen your own risk in this strange new world.

Pick a window seat – and stay there

Yes, that’s the research-backed answer to where you should be on a plane if you want to reduce the scope to catch nasties off your fellow passengers.

This was one of the intriguing findings of a 2018 study co-led by Emory University biostatistician Vicki Hertzberg, who described a plane’s window seats as “a little less risky than the aisle seats”. She made this judgement on the basis that – statistically speaking – passengers in these seats don’t leave their seats as frequently as those sitting next to the aisle.

And of course, if you’re next to the aisle, you’ll also be closer to all of the other passengers who could walk past coughing or sneezing germs onto you. 

Wash your hands frequently

Yes, this is something that you’ll have heard again and again over the last few months, but it doesn’t cease to be irrelevant advice because of that. It’s also hardly as if washing your hands often – and for about 20 seconds each time– is only effective against COVID-19. After all, if you’re set to travel in the colder months, there’s also the return of the traditional flu season to potentially contend with.

With the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) having said that hand washing can prevent about 20% of respiratory conditions such as colds, it’s a fair easy way to reduce your risk.

As for if you’re bearing our earlier point in mind and thinking, “but won’t getting out of my seat to go to the toilet heighten my risk?”, that’s a good reason to also keep a small bottle of hand sanitiser on you, for an extra level of cleaning even when you can’t easily reach a sink and soap.

Carry antimicrobial wipes

The COVID-19 pandemic has had us all second-guessing even the most previously mundane activities that we once took for granted the notion of doing without thinking. Alas, you’ll need to spare some of that vigilance for your next plane trip too, particularly with regard to the multitude of surfaces that you’ll be surrounded by on your flight.

So many different people may have touched the seats, backs of the seats, arm rests, handrails and tray tables since they were last properly wiped down. It might therefore be a very wise idea for you to have antimicrobial wipes on hand with which to clean these surfaces prior to using them.

With one frequently quoted study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research suggesting that you may be 100 times likelier to catch a cold on a plane than during your normal everyday life, you can’t really be too conscientious in relation to minimising your risk of infection while flying.

Follow the above, hopefully largely common sense tips, then, and you’ll be going a long way to ensuring your next flight is a safe and pleasurable one, whatever your destination this summer or beyond.

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