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Get a window seat

Window seats are most advantageous, “just because they don’t have as much contact with other individuals,” says Vicki Stover Hertzberg of Emory University, the lead researcher on a new study looking at the spread of respiratory diseases during transcontinental flights.

Don’t stress too much

“We found that around a person who is infectious, it’s only the row ahead of that person, the row behind, and two seats to either side that are most at risk of infection from that individual … in other words, don’t worry about the person five rows behind you coughing their heads off.”

Stay put

Unless you have medical reasons requiring you to stretch your legs during a flight, stay put, minimizing your contact with others. “To be on the cautionary side – and optimize your chances of not getting sick – try to stay in that window seat and don’t get up.”

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Keep your hands clean

Observing healthy hand hygiene is a must, as is keeping your hands away from your face. “Your hands are going to pick up some stuff, either by people sneezing, or what’s in the air getting on them. … [If] you put your hands on your face, you could transfer that to the mucus areas of your eyes, nose or mouth. That’s how the germs – the microbes – enter the body.”

Wipe the tray table

A 2015 study by TravelMath revealed that seat tables were covered in more than eight times the amount of bacteria per square inch than the airplane’s toilet flush button. (It’s not unheard of for people to change an infant’s diaper on them.) Carry a pack of disinfectant wipes and give it – and the armrests and touchscreen if there is one – a good swab as soon as you sit down.

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