Every holiday season, people head to airports and dart across the country to visit family and friends. In 2015 alone, Airlines for America estimated over 25 million Americans flew during the holidays, the highest figures in nearly a decade. And while air travel is the most convenient way to get around, it does raise certain health risks. Specifically, planes can be fertile grounds for influenza and other yuletide-bashing ailments.
Here are a few precautions you can take take to stay germ-free while flying the friendly skies:
Choose your seat wisely
There is a reason why first-class seats are so coveted, and it has more to do with than free cocktails. According to a July 2011 study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, coach cabin passengers have a 3.6 percent increased risk of catching the flu if they sit within two rows of someone with symptoms. That risk jumps to 7.7 percent if the person is located within two seats of the infected person. That's why your seating assignment is so important. As Ask Men reported, the middle seat offers the least exposure to germs. The aisle exposes you to the most traffic and thus more germs.
Be cautious and prepared
There is no way to completely eliminate germ exposure while flying. That's why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested bringing along a travel health kit, which should include tissues, fever medication, disinfectant wipes and alcohol-based sanitizer. It also important to recognize the most germ-ridden places on each plane, as Frommer's pointed out. Airplane restrooms contain the most germs, and you should avoid touching any unnecessary surfaces. Additionally, be sure to wipe down your arm rest and wash your hands after touching the seat cushion.
Beyond hand washing and disinfectant wipes, the most effective way to protect yourself from germs and sickness is getting vaccinated before traveling, as the CDC suggested. You'll want to schedule your shots at least 10 days before departing domestically, and four to six weeks prior if traveling internationally. Young children are especially susceptible to germs while traveling, so always make sure they're up to date.