The germiest surfaces on a plane are not necessarily what you'd expect.

From the outside, jetsetting around the world seems oh-so glamorous. Hopping on a plane and waking up in a whole other place, refreshed and ready to go — how wonderful!

The truth is, unless you’re flying first class that’s not always the reality.

As if the cramped toilet cubicles and loudly snoring fellow passengers weren’t enough to make air travel slightly uncomfortable, it seems a lot of our beloved on-board creature comforts are basically germ incubators.

Oh, joy.


Hiding in the bathroom won't save you, Jen. Quite the opposite. (Image: Etihad Airways)

According to US-based health service Drexel Medicine, one of the dirtiest places on a plane is the seat pocket.

"While it may look like a handy place to store snacks, drinks, and other belongings, passengers like to use seat pockets more like a trash bin than a storage device," the website notes, using fingernail clippings and dirty nappies as examples. Ick.

"Studies have shown it's one of the worst offenders when it comes to germs on an airplane."

Watch: Flight attendants dish the dirt on the airlines they work for. Cringe central. (Post continues after video.)

The same goes for the reading material stored inside the pockets, namely in-flight magazines that are read by thousands of people each month and don't exactly receive a wipe-down afterwards.

'But I don't even read those things,' we hear you say. 'I'll be fine, I've totally got this.'


Well, don't get too smug just yet — the touch-screen entertainment systems that get you through those painful long-haul flights are pretty nasty, too.

"Nearly everyone who has sat in your seat before you has touched that screen and there is no way of knowing where their hands had been before that," the Drexel website states. (Post continues after gallery.)

Sure, we have no way of knowing, but here are some ideas: the toilet seat, the toilet door, the seat pocket, inside their mouth, inside their nose... you get the picture.

As for those lovely pre-packaged pillows and blankies we spend 14 hours buying our faces into... well, they're not necessarily as clean as they look, either.

"Think about how many drowsy, drooling passengers have used them before you," the website states.

"More times than not, these popular air amenities are reused flight after flight."


Noooo! Step away from the... oh God, too late. (Image: iStock)

Tray tables and the bathroom also made the list. Seriously, flight attendants must have the strongest immune systems known to humankind.

Yes, germs are a fact of life and many of the items we use on the ground are also pretty grotty (iPhone screen, anyone?). However, there are some factors that make us more susceptible to their effects when we're cooped up inside a plane.

For one thing, viruses and bacteria can survive for several hours on plane surfaces, despite the stringent hygiene standards airlines adhere to.

Moreover, as Healthand's Principal Medical Officer Dr Piraveen Pirakalathanan told Mamamia, the on-board atmosphere puts us at heightened risk.

“At normal flying altitude the air can be as dry as 10 per cent or more than being at normal ground level. Dry air is known to adversely affect the lining of our nose and throat and makes them more prone to infection,” Dr Pirakalathanan explained.


Watch: Some theories as to why we get emotional on planes. (Post continues after video.)

Long haul flights and high altitudes — not mention stopovers at weird times of the night and the fact it’s bloody difficult to sleep on a plane — also tend to tire you out, which then makes your body more susceptible to infection.

The risk of catching a sniffle doesn't end when the flight does, either — Dr Pirakalathanan says airport surfaces also pose a risk of infection.

"Be careful at the check in kiosks and baggage areas and make sure you keep hands clean," he advises.

The moral of this story? Stash some hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes in your carry-on. You've gotta protect yourself up there.

Featured image: iStock 

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