Toronto doctor offers advice on how to avoid flu germs on airplanes

WATCH ABOVE:  Tis the season of holiday travels and also seasonal flu bugs, which means that can make your flight a cesspool of germs. Carey Marsden reports.

TORONTO – Travellers bring back souvenirs from their trips but what about seasonal flu bugs?

“The typical airplane is a cesspool of both bacterial and viral contamination. The reason is you’re cramming several hundred people into a very close space,” said Dr. Brett Belchetz, an emergency room physician in Toronto.

He says travellers should avoid hot spots for germs on airplanes where they are most likely to come into contact with harmful bacteria.

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“Where people are touching the same surfaces over and over again. Where the air recirculates continuously. Where there is not an opportunity to regularly clean those surfaces between those times where it gets touched,” said Dr. Belchetz.

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Here are the four most common areas where germs thrive on an airplane:

1. Sitting near someone who is sick

If you have a flight with a sick passenger who is coughing or sneezing, you could be more at risk of catching the illness if you are within a 2-seat radius.

Dr. Belchetz said you can try to get your seat changed. “Try to be at least two or three seats away from that person who is coughing or sneezing.”

2. The lavatory

There is one toilet per 50 plus passengers, depending on the flight. And not everyone takes the time to clean up after using the facilities.

“If you can avoid it, that is the best strategy,” said Dr. Belchetz. “But if you have to use the bathroom use an alcohol hand sanitizer after you’re done.”

Dr. Belchetz advises to use a hand sanitizer that has at least 70 per cent alcohol. “Otherwise you are wasting your time,” he said.

3. Aisle Seats

For many passengers it is their favourite spot. It is convenient to get up and down, but the arm rests are also in high traffic areas.

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“They’re getting touched by every single passenger that walks down the aisle. So you are exposing yourself to more risk,” said Dr. Belchetz.

4. Trays and seat-back pockets

“If you have a cleaning pad that is alcohol-based, you can wipe down your tray table at the beginning of the flight,” he said. Belchetz also advises people to avoid the in-flight magazines.

“Most of those magazines have been touched by hundreds of hands,” he said.

While it is a reminder we hear every season Belchetz said it is important to remind travellers to get the flu shot and wash your hands frequently.