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Fliers' Survival Guide for Airports, Planes

Taking some simple precautions can help ensure a safe and healthy arrival.

It's Germy Up There continued...

To lower your risk, don't touch the doorknob on the airplane bathroom. "Take a paper towel, and grab the door knob to get out," he says. Also avoid grabbing onto seats when walking through the plane. If you must take hold to steady yourself, use hand sanitizer as soon as you return to your seat.

"On the airplane, we are constantly touching stuff that hundreds of other people are touching, and a cold virus can live on an inanimate object for quite a while," Powell says.

Transmission can occur quickly and innocently by touching a faucet in the bathroom, and then touching your mouth or eyes. If you are the sick passenger, cough into your elbow just like they teach schoolchildren to do. "You don’t want the virus on your hand," Powell says.

Boost Your Defenses

Holiday flights are often packed, so switching seats is not always an option. This means if your neighbor has a cold or flu, you may be out of luck. "If someone is coughing and sneezing within three seats in any direction, you may get infected," Powell says.

So does that mean you are definitely going to catch it? Not necessarily. The best offense is always a good defense, Powell says.

Use saline nasal spray before and after the flight. "The plane air is so dry and that dries out your mucus membranes, which reduces your resistance to infection, but keeping these membranes moist with saline spray may help."

A Neti pot -- a ceramic pot that uses a salt water solution to flush out the nasal cavity -- can also rinse out viruses and pollen after a flight. Supplements of vitamin C may boost your immune system.

Seeing another passenger wearing a face mask may cause some alarm, but in other countries, people have no qualms about wearing a mask in public. "This can offer some protection for other passengers if you are sick, or for you if other passengers are ill."

BYOP (Bring Your Own Pillow)

Gone are the days when airlines would give weary travelers blankets and pillows for free.

That is a good thing as far as germs are concerned. Instead of buying a blanket or pillow on the plane, bring your own and the same holds for headphones, Zimring says. This eliminates the yuck factor.

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