Common Airline Boarding Practice Makes Spread of Disease More Likely, Study Says

Unless you always fly first class, you know what it’s like to stand with a crowd of passengers at an airline gate and then join the ultimate bottleneck in the plane, as you board. It’s not the most of pleasant of experiences, but now, according to the Chicago Tribune, researchers have found that this boarding practice is more than just inconvenient; it also contributes to the spread of disease. Using an Ebola outbreak as a model, the study found that the bigger the plane and the more passengers on it, the higher the risk for infection rates — by as much as 67 percent. Researchers suggested a better way to do it is to fly smaller planes with fewer passengers during disease outbreaks and to stagger the boarding classes.

The research findings here are really nothing new, seeing that it’s well-established that crowds and disease go hand in hand, whether you’re boarding a plane or walking in a crowded mall. That said, there are things you can do to avoid catching an illness when you fly. First, protect yourself by practicing good handwashing hygiene. Use warm, running water and a mild soap and wash all the way to wrists for 15 or 20 seconds. Dry with towels. Then avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth at the airport and on the plane, as a common way to become infected is by touching contaminated surfaces and transferring the germs to your face — and this holds true whether you’re on a plane or not.

Next, once you’re seated, adjust the overhead vent so you can have air currents flowing away from face. (If you’re concerned about breathing in others’ germs, some people opt to wear a surgical mask in crowds and on planes, so that’s an option too.)

Also, buy your own hot drink in the terminal just before boarding, as studies show that the water tanks on planes used to make tea and coffee are changed only every three months — with 1 in 8 planes testing positive for contaminated water. Beyond that, it’s important to follow basic good health rules to avoid infections at any time. Consuming a diet that’s rich in raw, whole foods, avoiding processed foods and getting plenty of high-quality sleep, along with optimizing your vitamin D levels, will go a long way toward making your body ready to fight infection all year long, including on the plane.

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