Can Airplane Travel Make You Sick?

If you travel frequently, chances are you might have suffered a cold or flu after your flight. In fact, several studies have shown that more than one in five people who travel on planes get a post-flight illness. Why is this such a common occurrence? An airplane is, unsurprisingly, a cornucopia for bacteria, but you also risk coming in contact with other unfamiliar bacteria from the airport itself, before you ever even take your seat and buckle up for take-off.

Here are some things you probably did not know about air travel and illness:

  • Airplanes are full of bacteria: From armrests and seat pockets to magazines and toilet cubicles, airplanes are loaded with bacteria. These commonplace germs can actually survive for hours or days after a passenger leaves and, according to microbiologists, even a common cold can infect people for up to 18 hours after the bacteria has left the body. Other common bugs and viruses found on places include skin diseases and E. Coli, which can live on a plane for over a week.

Wondering where the dirtiest places on a plane are? Hot spots include tray tables, overhead air vents, toilet flush buttons, and seatbelt buckles.

  • The airplane might not be the problem: Your path to your seat on the airplane is actually more treacherous than the airplane itself. You are around people from all over the world when you are in an airport and might be exposed to strains of a virus your body is not familiar with. Without the proper immunity for those strains, it is highly likely you will get ill. Escalator railings, drinking fountains, ATMs, and other frequently touched airport surfaces might all be contaminated.

Tips to stay healthy during air travel:

  • Do not touch your eyes, mouth, or the inside of your nose. If you do need to touch your face (and, in all likelihood, you probably will), be sure to first wash your hands with soap and water or apply sanitizer gel that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Try to avoid touching places that are accessible to a lot of people, especially the top edges of aisle seats or bathroom mechanisms. If you do, whip out the sanitizing gel.
  • Always wash your hands before a meal and as soon as possible after your flight.

There is no way you can guarantee illness prevention while traveling, but with these precautions, you might be able to effectively reduce this risk.

Award-Winning Healthcare Providers

At the Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia, our board-certified allergists and physicians provide comprehensive care and treatment for Atlanta area patients who suffer from a variety of sinonasal and upper respiratory conditions. Our staff will see you on the day of your call, if necessary, so do not hesitate to reach out to us at one of our nine locations.

Contact us today at (404) 994-3574 for the help you deserve.

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