How People Stay Germ-Free on Flights

When I wrote for Suite101 I posted a poll asking if people fear germs in airplanes. What choices do frequent flyers have to prevent the flu? Here are people’s answers:

“I don’t touch anything if I can help it”

Most readers (a whopping 40%) chose the unreliable but totally appealing method of “not touching things on planes.” Touching things is pretty hard to avoid if you think about it, especially on long flights that require constant viligance. Germs lie everywhere in airplanes – on arm rests, light and call buttons, overhead bin handles, bathroom doors and flush buttons, tray tables and window shades.

With some juggling around – using your elbows and sleeves, for example, to manipulate things – you can reduce the amount of direct contacts. You can also wash your hands frequently after touching people and things, avoid touching your face, religiously apply germ santizers, or wear surgical gloves.

Someone should step forward and be brave enough to wear surgical gloves on a plane.

But, the problem still remains even if you touch nothing – microbial germs are also in the air, from people coughing, sneezing, talking and simply breathing. Since “not breathing” is not an option, wearing a face mask could help.

No one seems brave enough to risk looking ridiculous wearing a mask as yet, either.

“I sedate myself with booze in flight”

20% of Business Traveler readers indicated that a steady supply of airline booze was a great way to fight off infection while flying. Perhaps this is simply wishful thinking or even rationalization, but it’s a known fact that alcohol, and especially red wine, contains helpful antioxidants. Alcoholic spirits are also a time-honored disinfectant for field surgery.

However, there is no proof that liquor can vanquish the flu, or even a cold. And remember, alcohol also dehydrates the body, which is not useful for a tip-top, healthily functioning immune system.

The third choice was a tie between:

“I swear by Airborne” and “I take First or Business Class and don’t worry about it,” with each taking 15% of the votes.

Airborne seems helpful if taken correctly, which is a bit of work; one needs to down the tablets in water before the flight, during the flight, and after the flight. Airborne isn’t cheap, but at least it tastes okay. If travelers are mindful to keep on schedule, the Vitamin C, zinc, antioxidants and other helpful herbs seem to do the trick in staving off nasty post-flight respiratory infections.

Taking First or Business Class is also highly recommended if one has the means. Seats are further apart, there is a private bathroom and fewer sick children coughing on the back of your seat. You get decent meals with healthy vegetables and fruit. Frequent soothing hot beverages and even hotter face towels flow like wine.

Will a better flight class keep you from getting sick? Well, probably not – even those on an expense account can catch a cold and spread it to the rest of the luxury passengers. But at least you will be further apart from your neighbors. You might even get some restful, healing sleep in those comfy horizontal sleep pods.

“I drink soothing, hydrating herbal teas or orange juice”

Only 10% of readers chose to imbibe juices or hot teas to keep dry, infectious plane air at bay. Perhaps most readers would rather drink the booze, or rely on Airborne instead of O.J.

So there it is: drink a lot in first class while touching nothing and popping your Airborne.

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