The lack of fresh air and close proximity to people means planes can be a hotbed for germs. And while nobody wants to start their holiday by getting ill, for athletes travelling abroad to compete, it could risk ruining a career-defining tournament.
Respiratory illnesses like cough and colds are the biggest cause of athletes missing training, according to research by the English Institute of Sport, so ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, researchers are looking to reduce these illnesses.
They’ve released five tips for athletes looking to protect themselves while travelling, but they may well come in handy next time you’re on a plane, too.
5 ways to avoid getting ill on a plane:
1. Choose a window seat to minimise contact with potential germ carriers.
2. Avoid seats near the toilets, the busiest part of the plane.
3. Drink plenty of water.
4. Put on the air con – the air conditioning blower may create a “cone of protection” that stops germs reaching you.
5. Disinfect the armrests, seatbelts, buckles and trays.
Of course, hand washing is also important for reducing the risk of illness, whether you’re trying to prevent the spread of norovirus on the ground or flu in the air.
“We are working with the vast majority of Olympic and Paralympic sports on effective hand-washing techniques in preparation for the Tokyo games, which includes tools such as the SureWash training system and UV light boxes,” said Craig Ranson, director of athlete health for the English Institute of Sport.
“This is hugely important given that respiratory and gastro-intestinal illnesses are two of the biggest health threats to athlete availability for preparation and performance.”
Professor Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, previously told HuffPost UK you should also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth on planes, as these areas are prime gateways for germs to enter the body. She recommended packing a nasal spray designed for treating the common cold.
“Dose yourself once you get to the other end because it takes time for the cold virus to burrow into the tissues of your nose,” she added. “And if you catch it in the early stages, you can prevent a cold.”