How to avoid getting sick during holiday travel


‘Tis the season for holiday travel, and unfortunately, getting sick.

Health professionals are warning passengers that it’s still flu season, and millions of Americans are expected to travel within the next few days.

“We get with our families and our friends and eating a variety of foods, and it’s hard, when you have guests, to be running around rubbing down the surfaces,” said Adrienne Byrne, with the Sedgwick County Health Department.

While passengers board their flights, so are several germs.

Byrne offered the following tips to avoid getting sick while traveling:

  • Keep wipes and hand sanitizer on you.
  • Stay hydrated — The low humidity of the cabin air dries out the mucous membranes in your nose and airways. If they’re dried out, you’re more prone to catching an illness.
  • Keep the air vent on — Planes use HEPA filters to remove airborne viruses and bacteria
  • Choose your seat carefully — Aisle seats see more traffic and run a greater risk of exposure to germs. The window seat has less contact with passengers.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow.

Byrne said the best way to prevent yourself from getting sick is to get the flu shot. Sedgwick County Health Department has seen more people come in for their vaccination compared to past years.

KSN’s Amanda Aguilar also reached out to airport staff and airline carriers to see how they keep planes and terminals clean.

According to a spokeswoman for Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport, the custodial staff uses fogging machines throughout the terminal to effectively kill bacteria and germs. The children’s play area is wiped down and disinfected three times a day. In addition, disinfectant sprays and cleaners are used in the restrooms, door knobs and hand rails. 

“We use environmentally safe products,” said Valerie Wise. “We do this on a regular basis. Our custodians do an outstanding job of keeping the terminal clean and shiny, and there is a lot to clean.”

Airline carriers also have specific cleaning procedures.

Southwest Airlines provided this statement to KSN on its cleaning procedures: “Our aircraft undergo regular cleanings in between flights and a comprehensive cleaning when the aircraft is parked overnight. Our cleaning program includes the sanitizing of food surfaces and all hard surfaces within the cabin, as well as seat and carpet cleaning.”

United Airlines also released a statement saying: “Our crews are trained to recognize and report instances of passengers that may be traveling while ill. Additionally, each night, in addition to lavatory and galley cleaning that occur between each flight, tray tables and armrests are wiped down and disinfected and floors are vacuumed. We also do regular deep cleans on each aircraft which includes washing ceilings and overhead bins and completely scrubbing the entire interior.”

Airport and airline staff said these procedures are in affect every day — not just the holiday and flu seasons.

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