What are the dirtiest places on a plane?

What are the dirtiest places on a plane?

Did you know that more than one if five people who travel on planes suffer from a cold or the flu after the flight?

Microbiologists have tested planes and found that germs are commonplace, and can survive for hours or days after the passenger who brought them on board has departed.

See also: Revealed! Why plane windows have tiny holes in them

See also: Why do they dim lights during takeoff and landing on a plane?

But which areas of a plane are best avoided? According to Skyscanner, the top four dirtiest parts of the plane are (drum roll, please): Tray tables, overhead air vents, toilet flush buttons, and seatbelt buckles.

Some of the 200 or so viruses that can cause the common cold can infect people for up to 18 hours after they have left the body, and flu viruses can infect people for up to eight hours after being let loose.

As well as causing the common cold and influenza, these bugs and viruses can cause everything from skin diseases and upset stomachs. Studies have found MRSA and E. Coli can live on the plane for over a week. Ewww.

How germs and bacterias spread on planes

Modern planes typically use a combination of fresh and recirculated air. When the aircraft is parked at the gate, auxiliary power units generally provide ventilation rather than the aircraft's own system. This helps germs to spread through the cabin more easily.

Another culprit could be the low relative humidity of cabin air. The typical relative humidity on planes is around 11 per cent. According to Skyscanner, some research suggests that low humidity interrupts the Mucociliary Clearance System, which consists of a thin layer of mucus and tiny hairs in the nose. This protective system traps viruses and bacteria and moves them from the nose to the throat, where they are swallowed and destroyed by acid in the stomach.

Because this system no longer works properly, bacteria and viruses get easier access to your lungs.

Either way, you run the risk of becoming sick on an flight from directly inhaling particles in the air from someone's coughing or sneezing. You can also become sick if you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, mouth or nasal passages.

The longer you are exposed to these things the more chance you have of getting ill. So, theoretically at least, you are less likely to get sick on shorter flights than long haul flights.

How to stay healthy while flying

There are no iron-clad ways to prevent getting ill after a flight. But you can try and avoid picking up an illness by touch your eyes, mouth or the inside of your nose as little as possible.

This is tough to do, so make sure your hands are clean. Wash your hands well with soap and water, and frequently apply a hand sanitiser gel containing at least 60 per cent alcohol. The latter kills bacteria and is effective against some viruses.

Also, wipe down as many surfaces as you can with the gel or antibacterial wipes too, such as the remote control, tray table, video monitor screen and other surfaces known to have high levels of bacteria.

Try not to touch places that are accessible to a lot of people, like the top edges of aisle seats, door handles, or bathroom mechanisms. If you do, use the hand sanitiser.

Remember to wash your hands before a meal and as soon as you can after your flight.

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Weird things you can take on a plane
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Weird things you can take on a plane
Fancy spending the duration of your flight knitting? They might look like the type of thing airport security would confiscate but knitting needles are permitted on board. You'll want to leave the your cutting tools at home though, unless your scissors are blunt with blades no longer than 6cm.
Carrying your beautiful wedding cake on a flight isn't the best way to preserve it for your big day but you are allowed to travel with it as your carry-on - as long as it fits in the overhead locker! Heathrow Airport says: "You can take most solid foods, including wedding cake, in your hand baggage if you wish. Foods in sauces or dishes containing a lot of liquid will have to be in containers of 100ml or less, and placed inside a single transparent, resealable plastic bag of a capacity no greater than 1 litre."
This might be surpring for non-hunters but in America, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows travellers to carry antlers through aiport security and almost all US airlines allow them on board. Most will charge a small fee and ask that the anterles are cleaned and for the skull to be wrapped.
Whether you're a smoker or planning on lighting a few candles on your romantic break, you can carry one lighter on board. The UK government website says: "You should put it inside a resealable plastic bag (like the ones used for liquids), which you must keep on you throughout the flight." You can’t put it in your hold luggage or put it in your hand luggage after screening.
Travelling with Etihad Airways? Then your falcon can perch on your lap, too. While the Middle Eastern airline is happy to accommodate flyers who have one pet falcon, you will have to buy a first class ticket if you have two of the birds. Etihad says: "We accept the carriage of falcons in the main aircraft cabin provided that all the necessary documents have been obtained. We also accept falcons as checked baggage."
While some airports will allow Christmas crackers though security as long as they are in their original packaging but you will want to check with your airline if you can carry them on board, too. easyJet allows up to two boxes providing they are seals but warns passengers to check which novelty items they contain as "some crackers contain novelty items – such as sharp objects – that are not permitted onboard as cabin baggage".
Ashes carried in urns can go in your cabin baggage providing the urn is made of wood, cardboard or plastic, as it may not be possible for metal urns to be x-ray screened.
Some airlines will allow you to carry your bowling equipment in lieu of a piece of carry-on baggage. Virgin Atlantic says: "You’re welcome to bring your lucky bowling ball and shoes with you next time you fly Virgin Atlantic. As long as your bowling case doesn’t exceed 23kg, we’ll fly it at no extra charge – in addition to your free baggage allowance." US Airways allows its passengers to carry up to three bowling balls, one bowling bag and bowling shoes.
Spending Christmas abroad? Some airlines will make special accommodations for travellers taking their tree. Your fellow passengers might not be impressed with you dragging an evergreen through the airport. Flybe says: "There are no restrictions placed on passengers by Flybe as an airline with regards to the carriage of plants or trees. If you wish to carry a small plant, this can be carried in the cabin; alternatively this can be placed in the hold and must be properly packed."
If you're a nervous flyer, you might find comfort in carrying your own parachute on your next flight. Passengers travelling with Ryanair are told: "Parachutes of any type, recreational or sports type or paragliding wings (also known as 'canopy') can be accepted for carriage as checked-in or carry-on baggage subject to the standard restrictions for size and weight. These packs may contain an auxiliary or emergency 'chute' and a barometric mechanical activating (auto-release) device. These accessories are acceptable for check-in."
Miniature horses, along with pot-bellied pigs and monkeys, are allowed on flights if they offer passengers "emotional support". A manual from America's Department of Transportation describes them as "commonly used service animals", but that US airlines "are not required to carry certain unusual service animals in the aircraft cabin such as ferrets, rodents, spiders, snakes and other reptiles".
Don't panic if you spot mysterious vapours appearing from a fellow passenger's hand luggage. Some airlines will allow you to carry dry ice to preserve food or medicine. easyJet says: "You can carry a maximum of 2.5kgs of dry ice in your cabin bag as long as it is only used to preserve perishable items that are not classed as dangerous goods."
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