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Article written by Dr. Daliah.

Holiday season means it’s the travel season. And winter colds and COVID may be merrily jumping around an airplane you’re traveling in. And not just viruses are lurking; deadly drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, have been found to colonize airplane surfaces.  So here’s a list of things you should consider to avoid getting sick when you fly this holiday break (in addition to wearing a mask and trying to social distance):

Open the air vent and aim it IN FRONT of your face

The air will help blow pathogens away from your respiratory tree.

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Don’t sit next to someone who appears sick

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the average passenger does not want to appear rude and will suck it up, literally.  If your flight has you sitting next to a passenger who is coughing up phlegm in your direction and no other seats are available, considering changing flights…..

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Wash your hands and avoid touching your face

A recent study from Auburn University found deadly pathogens like E. coli and MRSA to survive for up to 7 days on surfaces surrounding your airplane seat.  Tray tables, armrests, bathroom doors, drinking fountain buttons and even the air vent button can house bacteria so wash your hands after touching any of these surfaces.

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Wipe down your surrounding areas

Antimicrobial wipes can help protect you against nasty bugs on any of the aforementioned surfaces. Also consider bringing some extra hand sanitizer with you.

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Avoid sitting in aisle seats, especially near the lavatory

People stand in line to use the bathroom and breathe and cough on you while you’re trying to enjoy your movie or nap.  The window seat may be safer.

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Carry-on some of your prescriptions 

Make sure to have half of your medications in your suitcase and half with you in your carry-on in case the flight gets delayed or you lose one of your bags.

Use your own pillow when you sleep

Your body loves your own personal microbiome and airplane pillows may carry germs you don’t wish to keep.  Remember to bring an extra pillowcase so you can change it out before you use it again on the flight back.

Eat a balanced diet prior to travel, and every day for that matter  

Fruits, vegetables, protein, complex carbs and fiber help your immune system.  A strong immune system can help you fight some of the worst of pathogens.

Stay hydrated

We forget to drink water when we travel and moist mucous membranes in our noses and mouths are less likely to pick up bacteria and viruses than dry ones.

Be well rested prior to travel

Conversely, poor sleep will weaken your immune system.

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network and KDWN.