When it comes to flight health and safety, the ball is in YOUR court. The air industry has become a big business…which means the focus is on profits, not the passengers. You bought a ticket, made it through airport security, and boarded the plane. But your work is just starting.
Your personal flight health and safety requires that you be prepared to fend for yourself. It’s not hard, but it does require some planning before you board…and then some action once you’re in the air.
Why? Because planes aren’t cleaned often enough:
- No cleaning is done between regular daytime flights. The cleaning crew does a quick sweep to pick up garbage, fold blankets, empty trash, and replenish toilet paper. Seat pockets may or may not get attention.
- When a plane is in a “terminator” spot overnight, cleaning may include vacuuming, wiping tray tables and the walls around the windows, and cleaning restrooms.
- Vacuums don”t usually have attachments, so only the floors are done. Seats get a quick brush. Major airlines do deep cleaning anywhere between 30 days and 18 months…it’s not hard to imagine how many butts have been in your seat.
- Unless you’re a squeamish germaphobe, take a deep breath and learn which plane areas are the dirtiest. (Hint: Not the bathroom!)
Flight health and safety: Here’s what to bring
BYOB: You’ve heard it again and again: Stay hydrated. The best way to do this is to BYOB–Bottle!–and fill it up after you’ve cleared security. Then ask the flight attendants to fill it with bottled water. I use this *Contigo water bottle. Don’t pay $10 for bottled water at the airport. It’s not good for the environment and you’ll need water wherever you’re headed. Hydration keeps nasal passages moist, so you don’t pick up nasty bugs. It also prevents fatigue, so you arrive at your destination full of spunk. Here’s a good article with more information. Drink up!
Disinfectant wipes: For a long time, I avoided bringing wipes for the tray table, arm rests, seat-back screen, and seat belt. I thought cleaning everything off was for sissies. Then I got conjunctivitis (pink eye)…twice. I know it was from touching something during a flight. Now, I bring a travel pack and give my area a quick swipe. I take one to the lavatory, too, to open the door, raise the lid, and wipe the flushing device. Pro-active is the way to go!
Hand washing: Ask any health care professional…they will tell you that hand hygiene is the #1 way to stay healthy. This is even more important in a closed space like an airplane. Stash some hand sanitizer in your carry-on and use it…often. I prefer a sanitizer made of natural ingredients, but the important thing is to keep your hands clean, wherever you are.
Sleep accessories: Do not–repeat, NOT–use the pillows and blankets provided by an airline. There are horror stories about them…think body fluids. As your mother warned you, “You don’t know where they’ve been.” Bring a pashmina or jacket for warmth. Buy an inflatable neck pillow. Just do it.
Flight health and safety: What to do inflight
Prevent blood clots: At the back of every inflight magazine, there are a few pages devoted to telling you how to avoid developing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the medical term for a blood clot. The illustrations show exercises that look boring and silly, but you really, really need to do them. Watch this short video for a quick lesson…but do not walk around in bare feet, like the guy with hairy legs does. A blood clot can be serious, or even deadly, if it breaks off and travels to the lungs. Move around, hydrate, and do the exercises.
Leg and feet swelling: Inactivity and the inability to raise your legs can cause blood to pool in the lower legs, ankles, and feet. The same measures for preventing a blood clot work for swelling. In addition, consider wearing compression stockings for flights longer than four hours; a good pair costs less than $25. If only one leg swells and becomes painful, seek medical attention–you might have a blood clot.
Using the lavatory: As much as we all hate going into that tiny cubicle, at some point it becomes necessary…especially if you’re following hydration instructions. First of all, wear shoes! (Do I need to go into detail?) After relieving yourself, put the lid down before flushing to keep tiny droplets-and microbes–from entering the air. Use a tissue or paper towel to raise/lower the seat/lid, flush lever, and door. Use hand sanitizer when you return to your seat. Oh, and never, EVER drink the water from the sink tap.
Turn on the airflow: Planes have excellent air filter systems, but respiratory germs from nearby passengers may reach you before they’re sucked away. To deflect stray culprits, turn on your air vent–about medium is fine–and adjust it to blow just in front of your face.
Flight health and safety really is up to you. The longer the flight, the more important it is. Planes are a necessary means of transportation, but not always clean or friendly environments. With a bit of planning, you can arrive at your destination without unwelcome complications.
More air travel advice:
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