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Flying During Flu Season Means Traveling With Other Passengers And Their Germs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- If you have plans to travel during flu season, you're not alone.

Not only will you be traveling alongside other passengers, but their germs too.

Some are soaring off to Super Bowl LII this weekend, others will soon be bayou bound for Mardi Gras, and others will be taking a mid-winter recess. February will see a flurry of folks flying the friendly skies, but it's also peak flu season.

"I guess I didn't think about it, I'm more excited for my trip," Elaina Narvaez said.

"We were joking how many of us are going to come back with the flu, I was hoping it wasn't going to be me," Kristina Eschenberg said.

Eschenberg said so far, so good. She's on her way home healthy, and considers herself lucky.

CBS2 asked Dr. Peter Shearer of Mt. Sinai Hospital to share some simple ways to ward off the flu while stuck in a cramped airplane cabin.

He said absolutely bring your own sanitizing wipes and use them, because seat backs and tray tables can be disgusting.

"That always grosses me out so I always clean the area," he said.

According to a 2015 study by Travelmath, it is the dirtiest place on the plane, carrying more germs than the toilet handle, seatbelt buckle, or overhead vent combined.

"I have been a little cautious on this trip," Christopher Cafiero said.

Cafiero said he's been washing his hands a lot and noted that some on his flight were wearing masks.

"I thought the mask was kind of silly," he said.

They might look silly, but do they work?

"You end up on a plane, and it's packed, and there's someone next to you who's coughing, bringing your own face mask would be a bad idea," Shearer said.

If no one is coughing the mask probably isn't necessary.

The recycled dry air also makes it easier for flu and other respiratory illnesses to get passed around, so staying hydrated in-flight is crucial.

"Nasal spray would be helpful, drinking a lot of liquids while you're flying, and avoiding excessive alcohol," Shearer suggested.

Do these things and hopefully you'll avoid catching the flu in mid-air.

Dr. Shearer said using an overhead air vent is not scientifically proven to help fight the flu, although some believe it increases air circulation and may keep viral air particles away.

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