Auto Club Tips: Avoiding Airplane Germs

(LOS ANGELES, April 27, 2009) Travelers concerned about the swine flu outbreak and general health risks in crowded areas can help protect themselves from airborne illnesses, bacteria and germs by exercising some extra precautions in the airport and on airplanes, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The Auto Club offers the following health tips for travelers:
  • Wash your hands frequently. Use soap and warm water to scrub thoroughly, or hand sanitizer gel. Sanitizer gel can be carried onto an airplane provided it is in a three-ounce or smaller container inside a clear, zip-top quart-sized plastic bag.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, which can spread germs from your hands into your body.
  • Clean areas around your airline seat, such as your tray table and plastic arm rests, with anti-bacterial wipes. Cold and flu viruses can survive up to three hours on these types of surfaces, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Stay well-hydrated. The low humidity on airplanes can cause health problems for many travelers. Purchasing a large bottle of water inside the airport gate for the flight is a good idea. Health experts recommend sipping water regularly throughout the flight to keep your throat and mouth from drying out. Soda, alcohol and drinks with caffeine may cause dehydration, so it’s best to limit intake of those fluids and drink water as well. Hot beverages also can be a helpful hydrator while traveling; the heat will stimulate your natural defense mechanisms against bacteria and germs.
  • For an extra boost of anti-bacterial protection, carry a travel-sized bottle of mouthwash (packaged according to Department of Homeland Security regulations).
  • Pack tissues where you can easily access them if needed quickly. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash. You can use a plastic bag or the airline sick bag as a trash receptacle on the plane; make sure to give the bag to the airline attendant collecting trash.
  • Some travelers are choosing to wear face masks. Health officials say it’s unknown how effective the masks are in protecting users against flu viruses, since tiny particles can still be breathed in through the masks.

In general, the Auto Club is advising travelers to gather all of the known facts about the flu outbreak and then make an informed decision about any travel plans they have.