October 3, 2016

Faecal matter on plane tray tables, unwashed blankets... and 80 million bacteria on suitcases: The dirty secrets of air travel revealed

I just ran across this article on Dailymail.com and had to share. 

Research has discovered that not only so planes harbour bacteria in unexpected places, the source of illnesses on holiday can be traced directly back to our suitcases.

During research, an anonymous cabin crew member was interviewed, claiming: 'Cleaners don't have time to thoroughly clean planes between journeys, as they are under pressure constantly to provide a quick turn-around. 
Additionally, research conducted in the US by The Today Show found that bacteria causing cold viruses, influenza, MRSA, E-coli and listeria have all been discovered on planes and in airports.

The worst offenders when it came to onboard hygiene were discovered to be the fold-down tray tables that travellers use for eating in-flight meals.

These were found to be rife with high levels of bacteria – perhaps the result of airlines failing to wipe the tables properly between flights.
Luggage comes into contact with up to 80 million bacteria before it even reaches the hotel room, according to the latest statistics
Luggage comes into contact with up to 80 million bacteria before it even reaches the hotel room, according to the latest statistics

Even worse were the plane’s seat belts – touched over the years by thousands of hands, but rarely cleaned or replaced. 

The researchers uncovered the presence of human ‘bacteroides’ – germs which can cause real damage to health.

As your suitcase makes its own journey to the hotel room, it picks up millions of bacteria along the way


1. Planes can harbour all kinds of hidden bacteria, so before you sit down and make yourself comfortable for your flight, it's always worth cleaning the area. As well as spritzing the drop-down tray table, spray the armrests and seatbelt fastenings. Although the cabins are cleaned by airlines, 2014 findings by the Auburn University in Alabama, USA, revealed that disease-causing bacteria can survive for up to a week inside plane cabins, on surfaces such as tray tables, seat pockets, armrests and window shades.

2.  Drink lots of water - wellness manager and nutritionist at Grace Belgravia, Katie Greenall, says, 'It is tough to get the balance right, you want to remain hydrated but don't want to drink so much that you are constantly queuing for the loo. A good indication of adequate hydration is having smooth, hydrated lips. I would advise between one and two cups of water per hour.' Always ask the air stewardess for more if you need it or buy bottles in the airport, after security, to take onto the flight.

3.  Use a nose spray - There's nothing worse than a dry nose on a long haul flight. At between 30,000 and 35,000 ft humidity is well below the 15 percent required to keep nasal passages moist. A dry nose and throat disrupts the body's natural drainage system which moves viruses and bacteria down to the stomach to be flushed away. Using nasal sprays from brands such as Otrivine and Sterimar can help keep things flowing and important mucous membranes moist.

4.  Do not walk around barefoot on planes, as carpets do not get cleaned regularly and can be teaming with bacteria.

5. Always make sure that you sanitise your hands before and after visiting the loo, especially if hot running water and soap are unavailable. Public toilets on planes, in airports, on cruise ships and in hotels are shared by many people, and it’s always best to err on the side of caution. 
6. Bring your own blankets - That blanket you are snuggling up to has probably been rubbed up against, wiped and sat on by a number of passengers already. Flight attendant Sara Keagle says that in her airline's economy class, freshly washed blankets and pillows are only supplied to the first flights of the day. After that, they are folded up and then reused. It's a practice that's common across many airlines. Don't chance it, bring your own. 

7. Don’t forget your luggage! A suitcase will be handled by many people when travelling abroad, not to mention carted over many different floors and pavements. Before you place your case on your hotel bed to unpack, give the handles, wheels and base a wipe down with some sanitizer sprayed on a tissue or cloth.

8. For long delays in airports, it’s great to keep yourself feeling fresh. Sanitised water can be sprayed directly onto skin to freshen it up, and it’s kind to even the most sensitive and delicate skin.

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