Americans love to travel, especially by air. We recline our seat backs, pop in our earphones, and settle down for a nap at 30,000 feet as soon as we feel the plane’s wheels retract. While most of us don’t think twice about flying, sitting next to a passenger who coughs into his hand and then grabs the armrest between you can unnerve the most seasoned traveler. Did you know that some parts of a plane can be overloaded with bacteria? To protect yourself on your next trip, pack some disinfectant wipes in an easily accessible pocket of your carry-on luggage; then, as soon as you get to your seat on the flight, try this quick 7-step cleaning routine. We’ve listed them in the order that many people prepare themselves for takeoff:

  1. Don’t take off your shoes. More than 1,000 people can walk around a plane in one day. Since the floors and carpets aren’t cleaned between flights, your safest bet is to keep your feet covered. If you want to remove your shoes while you’re seated, wear socks or travel slippers, and rest your feet on top of your shoes. Just remember to put the hard-bottom shoes back on if you get up to stretch, walk the aisles, or use the restroom.
  2. Clean your seat belt and buckle before connecting them. Although the buckle isn’t the dirtiest place on a plane, it’s in the running for the top 5. While you’re at it, go ahead and hit the armrests.
  3. Wipe entertainment system controls (especially the touch screens), the edge of the seat back pocket, and even the air vent and light controls over your head. Speaking of that pocket, on second thought, try to avoid everything in it too! If you like to read magazines when you fly, go ahead and buy a couple at a shop on the airport concourse before you board.
  4. Disinfect your tray table thoroughly. Due to short turnarounds, cleaning crews rarely have time to clean the trays. When you think of all the food, fingers, and foreign objects that park on a tray table during a flight (some diapers have even been changed on them), you get the picture.
  5. Pass on the airline-provided blankets and pillows. Bring your own travel-sized snugglies instead. Make sure to wash them before stowing them in your carry-on. You don’t want to be known as the passenger whose pet’s hair swirled around the cabin for two hours!
  6. Skip the coffee or tea. A recent EPA study showed that tap water on 12% of U.S. commercial airplanes failed to meet water quality standards. This number may seem low but think of it this way: that’s one out of every 8 planes. Ice can also be contaminated. While many aircraft have ice brought in, some larger ones have on-board ice makers. To help protect yourself, opt for bottled or canned beverages; avoid water, coffee, and tea poured from containers such as pitchers.
  7. Take extra care in the bathroom. They aren’t always cleaned after every flight, and the floors are among the most contaminated places on the plane. One way to keep yourself safe is to assume that every surface you touch is contaminated. This includes the door lock, toilet seat/lid, sink, faucets, and even the soap and paper towel dispensers. Take your packet of bacterial wipes when you go to the bathroom. If the tap water is cold, then clean your hands with one of your wipes after you wash them with soap. Then dry your hands thoroughly and use a paper towel to unlock and open the door. Make a habit of using the wipes or some hand sanitizer (make sure it has at least 60% alcohol) as soon as you sit down and buckle up again.

Following these precautions can go a long way towards helping you enjoy illness-free travel. But at the first sign of a stuffy nose, raised temperature, or sore throat, contact Teladoc by phone, online, or through our convenient mobile app! Our licensed doctors can diagnose your condition, recommend treatment, and prescribe medication when necessary. Even when you’re away from home, Teladoc is with you! Have a wonderful trip!