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Are you concerned with the latest news regarding the Corona Virus and travel?

Do you always catch flu or cold when you fly or travel?  

According to research, a good number of people will contract cold or flu from merely sharing an aeroplane cabin. That means the risk of being exposed to the Corona Virus is also increased.

Taking the appropriate measures and precautions when you fly can, however, help reduce the risk of catching flu or any other easily transmitted infection. 

For many people, the recirculated air is the reason they catch a flight soon after a flight.  This isn’t, however, precisely true. 

A survey conducted on 1,100 passengers flying on planes recirculated air and others using 100% fresh air shows that at least 20% of all these passengers (in both planes) developed a cold a week after flying. In other words, recirculated air only contributes to a small percentage of the cases. It is for this reason most planes have in-cabin HEPA filters to help filter out germs and other microbes from the air. 

Scientists have also been able to uncover several factors that increase the risk of catching a bug when flying.  

Outlined below are some of these risk factors and how to avoid them. 

  1. Environmental Fails

Boarding a plane puts you in a totally new and different environment. 

This also makes it almost impossible to control or manipulate the environment in your favour. In other words, you cannot set the temperature a few degrees higher or lower, neither can you expel that passenger coughing uncontrollably. 

As limited as your options are, you can still make the best out of each flight.  You can reduce the risk of infection by: 

  1. Choosing the seat next to the window: The risk of contracting an infection increases if you have too much contact with other people. Sitting in the same row as a sick traveller can also put you at risk.
  1. Reduce physical contact: Nonetheless, it is almost impossible to know who you will be sharing the seat with, leave alone, knowing if the other passenger is infected. Reducing physical contact with other people is your only safe bet to lower the risk. The window seat provides the least amount of direct contact with other passengers, thus a reduced risk of contamination. You might also want to avoid getting up and moving around the cabin as much as possible. 
  1. Turn your air vent on: As mentioned earlier, most planes are equipped with in-cabin HEPA filters, which help provide clean air. These filters will, however, not protect you from airborne pathogens around you. David Xiberras from Richmond Kitchens has seen first hand how domestic air-conditioning systems can wreak havoc on immunity. He notes “A/C systems in the kitchens we work on have been able to store pathogens, mould and viruses. Pretty much the nasty stuff that can make you sick. And while flight air filtering systems may not have this problem, you shouldn’t think you’re safe because other passengers may bring in pathogens.”

That said, turning the air vent on, and preferably on low or medium, and aiming it down your lap will help blow the germs away. This reduces the risk of breathing bugs hovering around you. 

  1. Wipe down your seat, armrest, and tray table with alcohol wipes: While these may seem clean on the surface, it wouldn’t hurt to give them a sanitary wipe before settling in. Most airlines will only clean the seats, table, and armrest on the surface, hence never dive deeper into the seat pockets and sides of the armrests. Research also shows that seat pockets and armrests are among the dirtiest spots on the plane.Take just a few seconds of your time to wipe down the seats, armrest, tray table, and the entertainment screen with alcohol wipes. This could save you a vacation of sneezing and coughing. 
  1. Avoid in-flight pillows, blankets, and magazines: While they may seem clean, there’s no guarantee that these items were cleaned recently. You are much safer with your sweater, or even better, bring a shawl with you. 

2. Personal Health Precautions 

Personal hygiene and good health practices can save you from catching viruses like the Corona Virus while flying too. Some of the personal health precautions to take while in the air include: 

  1. Drink lots of water: The air inside aeroplane cabins has humidity levels of about 20% or even lower. The humidity in an average home is around 30%. The dry air can cause the mucus to thicken, thus taking down the body’s first line of defence against bacteria and viruses. Bringing a water bottle with you and drinking lots of water while in the air, however, helps keep the body hydrated, thus a reduced risk of nasal passages drying out. 
  1. Use hand sanitiser: Water in aeroplane sinks and toilets isn’t as clean as that in your home. This is according to an article published in the Wall Street Journal. That said, it would be advisable to use a hand sanitizer even after washing your hands while in the air. Although the airline may claim that their water is clean, you shouldn’t bet your life/health on their word. 
  1. Get plenty of rest: Rest, and especially sleep, is vital for your health, explains Janine Castle from Gold Coast Detox and Rehab. She explains “lack of sleep makes the body vulnerable and susceptible to infections. Make it a habit of getting as much sleep/rest as possible, especially when travelling overseas or across the country.” 
  1. Don’t touch the mouth, eyes, and nose: Most viruses and bacteria spread when you touch an infected surface, then proceed to touch your mouth, eyes, or nose. Melbourne  eyebrow feathering expert Connie Di Camillo says many women touch their face more often on flights. She explains “flights can dry out your skin, so it’s common to apply make-up, or touch the face to apply beauty products. You can work towards avoiding infection if you sanitise your hands regularly and if you don’t touch your eyes, mouth, and nose during the flight”. 
  1. Don’t let your guard down after landing: Dodging a bacteria/virus infection while in the flight is one thing, dodging it while at the airport is another. Airports are usually crowded with people, taxis, and contaminated surfaces as well. Take the same precautions as you did while in the air, around the airport. Limit physical contact with people as much as possible 
  1. Stock up on medication and remedies, in case you do get sick. You can never be too sure, especially after taking a flight. Stocking up on medicines and remedies for known infections, such as cold and flu, can help you contain the illness before it becomes worse. This also reduces the risk of transmitting it to your loved ones at home. 

While the emergence of the Corona Virus is presenting a challenge to both flyers and non-flyers alike, by practising safe personal hygiene you can play your part in slowing down the spread and helping everyone in your community stay safe.

Looking for help or support with your upcoming visa or travel plans? Speak to the experienced team from 101 Migration today!

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