Flying on airplanes is one of the most efficient ways to travel (especially when going overseas), but with so many people using them all the time they can also get a germy. To protect yourself while flying it’s good to keep in mind some health precautions and perhaps carry some hand sanitizer on you. Here are some areas of planes that are particularly prone to germs.

The tray tables on airplanes have been found to be one of the places on planes where the E. coli bacteria has the best chance of surviving, which can be up to 72 hours. While the point of the tray table is for it to be used for food, occasionally a parent will use it as a changing table for a baby which of course isn’t the most sanitary option, but one of the only options sometimes on a full flight. It’s generally a good idea to give the tray table a wipe down and don’t eat anything directly off of it if possible.

The arm rest seems pretty harmless, but some studies have found that E. coli can live there for even longer than the tray table…somewhere closer to 92 hours. That’s even longer than the toilet flusher, where it can live for about two days.

The sometimes very dangerous and hard to treat MRSA virus was found to be able to live for a week on the cloth seat pockets, six days on an armrest, five days on both the tray tables and window shade, and four days on the toilet handle.

To test this out the researchers did not take samples from an actual flight, but rather borrowed the pieces from Delta Airlines and infected them in a controlled environment.

According to Michael Schmidt, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina:

“The best thing you can do to protect yourself when flying is: Before you put anything into your mouth, bring some alcohol hand sanitizer and sanitize your hands. It’s all about risk mitigation. After I wipe my hands, I use the rest of the alcohol wipe to wipe down the tabletop, just in case I touch it and inadvertently eat something.”

Delta responded to the study claiming they had good cleaning measures in place.

“We have efficient cleaning specifications that are standardized across our entire operation before all departures and on aircraft that remain on the ground overnight. This includes removing all trash, wiping down all countertops, surfaces and seats, cleaning floors and replacing and restocking pillowcases and blankets among several other procedures.”

The study was paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Airliner Cabin Environment Research Center.

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