Can you really avoid getting sick on a plane? Scientists say yes – it all depends where you sit

If you’re like me and swab every surface of your seat when you fly, you’ll be interested to learn that US researchers have confirmed you have an 80 per cent chance of getting sick if you are sitting directly next to, in front of and behind someone with a cough, cold or flu. 

But this drops to just three per cent once you’re outside this zone. 

How did they work this out? 

They flew on 10 different cross-country flights and tracked passenger movements though an iPad app, including how often they interacted with each other and how often they left their seats. 

People within one metre of a sick person were most likely to fall ill over the course of the flight. 

Beating the dreaded plane lurgy 

So can you do anything to ensure you escape the plane bug-free? 

Get a window seat and stay there as much as you can – middle seats are the next best, while aisle seats are the worst for passing around germs. 

The researchers also recommend not touching your eyes, face or shared surfaces. 

If you do end up sitting next to someone who is sick, try to face away from them, wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitiser.  

Of course, they warn you can still catch something before you get on the plane.  

Time to pack the Haz-Mat suit? 

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A special thanks to our contributors

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Antonia Norris

Researcher and Contributor

Antonia has led the operations and growth of the agedcare101.com.au and villages.com.au within the DCM Group in Australia and New Zealand for several years. This has included the research and creation agedcare101 in 2016, the creation of the DCM Institute and Te Ara Institute, the joint contribution of Care & Living with Mercer (CaLM) and the TV series, The Best 30 Years, screened on NINE nationally.

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Journalist

Journalist

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the Villages.com.au and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

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Ian Horswill

Journalist

Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, villages.com.au and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

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Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for villages.com.au, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

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Jill Donaldson

Physiotherapist

Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

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Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

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Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.