Gifts aren't the only thing you can bring back after holiday travel. Your fellow passengers can also gift you with a nice, juicy cold or the flu.
That's because flying increases your risk of getting sick. A 2004 study found that adults are up to 113 times more likely to have a cold after a long flight, when compared to the same risk among of the rest of us on the ground.
Why are planes such germ incubators? It's not the recirculated air, reports the Wall Street Journal -- it's when that filtered air circulation is shut down during long waits on the ground or when passengers are boarding.
And all it takes is one sick person. When a plane was delayed on the ground for three hours, with its engines off and no air circulating, 72 percent of the 54 people onboard got sick with the flu within two days, a 1979 study found. The culprit was the one passenger who was ill.
The air in airplanes is also very dry, and viruses thrive in low humidity, writes Glenn Braunstein, M.D., in the Huffington Post. That's why it's important to stay hydrated by drinking water. Use a saline spray to keep your nasal passages moist.
Here are some other tips for avoiding the germiest places on a plane:
Disinfect your hands: Clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer so you don't transfer germs when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Wipe the tray table: Think about how many people touch those trays. Yeah, ugh. So clean them off with a distinfecting wipe before using.
Avoid the pocket: Trust me, you don't want to know what disgusting things people put into those seat-back pockets. If at all possible, don't touch them.
Open the air vent: Aim it so the air passes just in front of your face, helping blow away airborne germs.
Bring your own pillow: Don't use airline pillows and blankets, which are often re-used without cleaning.
Photo credit: theonlinetraveller.com