Avoiding illness during air travel can be quite challenging, especially when confined to a plane cabin with fellow passengers. The choice of your seat, however, might play a crucial role in minimizing the risk of falling ill while on the move.
Research from the National Academy of Sciences in the US indicates that opting for the window seat can substantially decrease your exposure to airborne germs in comparison to sitting in the middle or aisle seats. This becomes particularly relevant when seeking to prevent common respiratory ailments like the common cold or the flu.
In a study involving 1,500 passengers on US flights, individuals seated in aisle positions interacted with an average of approximately 64 people during a flight, while those by the window only interacted with around 12. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that if you are within a meter of an infectious person, your susceptibility to illness significantly rises, irrespective of your seat preference.
The research highlights the window seat as the preferable option for those prone to illness due to the airflow dynamics within the cabin. The aircraft’s utilization of HEPA filters directs filtered air up the cabin’s sides and downward toward the aisle, with window-seat occupants being the first to receive this purified air, thereby reducing their exposure to germs.
Furthermore, the window seat provides more isolation, as there is only one person beside you and a considerable distance from the aisle, minimizing contact with other passengers or crew members. Passengers in window seats are also less likely to move around the cabin, further reducing their interactions with others.
However, it’s worth noting that not all window-seat occupants are exempt from health considerations, particularly on long-haul flights. Prolonged periods of sitting or restricted movement due to being wedged between two individuals and the aisle may lead to other health issues, such as deep-vein thrombosis.
Regardless of your chosen seat, adopting preventive measures is essential. Wearing a mask, ensuring the overhead air vent is on, staying hydrated, and using a nasal spray to prevent nasal dryness are recommended practices. Regular hand washing or sanitizing is also effective in preventing germs, as surfaces are more likely to harbor germs than the air itself.
For those determined to minimize germ exposure during travel, it’s advisable to wipe down frequently touched surfaces like armrests, tray tables, and touchscreens or remotes. Using tissues when handling commonly touched surfaces such as toilet door handles and opting for cutlery instead of direct hand contact with food are additional strategies to reduce the risk of illness.