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Use Hand Sanitizer on a Plane

Is sanitizing hand gel something you should bring along when flying?

hands and a sanitizer bottle, image
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Use a hand sanitzer when you travel to help kill bacteria and viruses.

Whether you're heading out on a road trip or strapping yourself into an airplane seat, it's smart to travel with hand sanitizer, says Allison Aiello, a hand hygiene and infectious disease specialist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Gels that contain at least 60 percent alcohol can kill bacteria and viruses—including those that cause colds and flu—before they have a chance to make you sick.

"Hand sanitizer is really important on an airplane," Aiello says. As she explains, those armrests, tray tables, and buckles can be germy, and even when the seat belt light is off you may have a hard time getting to the restroom to wash your hands in the sink. She recommends sanitizing your hands once you've settled into your seat and again before snack time.

Many kinds of sanitizer come in two-ounce travel sizes, well below the TSA's 3.4-ounce carry-on limit for liquids and gels. That's still plenty to safeguard a family of four, Aiello says. If alcohol irritates your skin, she recommends using a product made with benzethonium chloride.

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This article was first published in November 2011. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.