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The Germiest Part of an Airplane — It’s Not What You Think!

You may have heard that airplanes carry more germs than other public places; that each time you travel, you’re making a pit stop at the giant germ-fest in the sky. Believe it or not, you’ve been duped. Airplanes carry germs, but no more than any other public place. It is true however, that certain aspects of airline travel tend to be especially germ-filled. So what are the germiest spots on airplane? Most likely , they’re not where you think.

According to a report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sitting near a sneezer increases your likelihood of catching a bug while traveling. You may be thinking “I knew it!” but pump the brakes — how close you actually are to that sneezer makes a big difference. Researchers say if you are two rows or more away from a sneezing machine, you only have a 3 percent chance of catching whatever it is they’re generously sharing with the rest of the plane. Unfortunately, if the sneezer is sitting right next to you, there’s an 80 percent chance you’ll be leaving the flight with something you didn’t board with — flu.

The air you breathe while flying above the clouds is drawn in from outside, then circulated and filtered in a floor-to-ceiling direction. This helps explain why you have a small chance of catching a cold from a germ-infested passenger six rows down. The passengers in the front of the plane don’t share air with the passengers in the back of the plane. Researchers also say the air in a plane cabin is replaced 20 times each hour, so you’re not stuck with stagnant air.

Since the air isn’t a huge concern, what takes first place as the germiest part of an airline? Believe it or not, it’s not the restroom. Researchers gave the No. 1 spot to tray tables. Honorable mentions go to air vent dials and seatbelt buckles. You also may want to avoid the seatback pocket. Stick your hand in at your own risk — you never know what you’re going to pull out.

Flying does leave you slightly more susceptible to airborne diseases, because the humidity is lower. The change in humidity can affect the mucus that protects your body from germs. However, it’s probably not necessary to break out the cold medicine every time you fly. Travel can increase the stress on your immune system, so taking a few precautions can help ensure you arrive back home from your trip healthy. To keep from getting sick, consider traveling with nontoxic cleaning wipes, stay hydrated to support a healthy mucus lining and don’t forget to wash your hands!

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