A study conducted last year indicates that passengers have an 80-percent chance of getting sick on a flight if they are within two seats or one row of someone with a respiratory illness. But Nicole Avena, Ph.D., said your risk isn’t confined only to having sick seatmates. An assistant professor of neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University, Avena said you’re at risk no matter where you sit on a plane. The culprit is recirculated air, which distributes germs or dust or allergens that are in the air. “I think that pretty much no matter where you’re sitting,” she told Convene, “you’re at risk for getting sick if there are people who are sick on the plane.”
Here are her common-sense tips for lowering your risk.
- Choose water over other beverages. It’s the best way to stay hydrated, because unlike diuretics like coffee and tea, you are less likely to have to use the bathroom — where more germs lurk. Be sure to ask for bottled water.
- Take a vitamin C supplement. After traveling for a few days, it’s easy to get worn down. Avena recommends Vitafusion’s Power C gummy vitamins. “It’s something that you can throw in your bag, you can take it with you and you can have a bottle if you want you can keep in your suitcase,” Avena said. “When I’m traveling I always have it.”
- Wipe down every surface that your hands will come into contact with, including the tray table and arm rest, with single-use antibacterial wipes.
- Minimize the adverse effect stress can have on your immune system. Downloading meditation apps, listening to music, and taking sleep aids such as magnesium supplements can all help minimize stress. “Stress is part of the workload. When people are traveling and they’re planning for business meetings or whatever it might be, we’re all going to experience some degree of stress, even if the travel goes relatively smoothly,” Avena said. “If you can do something that’s going to help you relax it can really make a big difference.”