Avoiding germs during air travel

Just like you may enjoy traveling, so do germs -- particularly airplane germs. The risk factor of contracting a contagious cold or other illness is heightened on a plane where a large number of people are packed together like sardines. And in the winter, there's even more risk, when respiratory illnesses are better apt to survive and thrive.

However, just because the flu decided to hop a plane to Jamaica the same day you did, you shouldn't have to abandon your travel plans. Taking some simple precautions and practicing some smart air travel tips will help protect you from falling victim to airplane germs:

1) Use sanitizers or disinfectant wipes. Wipe down the tray table, airplane seat (if leather), and your hands with a hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipe.

2) Open the overhead air vent. The air from the air vent will not only keep you cool, but it can help blow airborne germs away from your face.

3) Use you own pillow. BYOP (bring your own pillow) is a great habit to start when taking long distance trips. You don't have to bring your big, fluffy bed pillow though -- small, stuffable, or even inflatable travel pillows are all available for purchase at various travel stores.

4) Refrain from touching the pocket. The pocket houses the barf bag. Enough said, right?

5) Wear socks. Because we now have to take our shoes off to pass through security, make sure you wear socks so your bare feet aren't stepping where millions of passengers have before you.

6) Avoid touching the seats when walking down the aisle. Airplane germs can lives for many hours and even days. Therefore, one of the most overlooked air travel tips is to try not to touch the seats as you board or disembark the plane. If you must touch the seat to steady yourself, use a hand sanitizer as soon as possible.

7) Use a nasal spray. The air on a plane is extremely dry. Use a nasal spray to keep your nasal mucous membranes moist. For even more protection, use a neti pot after your flight to rinse out contaminants in your nose.

8) Boost your defenses. Some experts suggest that some supplements like vitamin C may boost your immunity to help fight off viruses.

So wherever your travel plans are taking you this year, don't forget that germs go on vacation too -- and they especially love to get there up in the air.

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