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- British supermodel Naomi Campbell went viral when she shared of video of her flight routine, which involves wearing a medical face mask, using a seat cover, and wiping down every surface.
- Airplanes are known for being full of germs. An expert said many of Campbell’s tricks are good protection, while others are more trouble than they’re worth for most people.
- A few basic sanitary precautions, like using alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer on germ hotspots, can keep you healthy while you travel.
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While British supermodel Naomi Campbell is better known for her groundbreaking work on the catwalk and in fashion magazines, she’s also now an internet sensation for her elaborate approach to … plane sanitation.
In a new viral video, Campbell shows how she keeps herself healthy while traveling, a routine that includes everything from bringing her own seat cover to wearing a face mask.
Some social media users have called her strategy germophobic or even bizarre, but a quick DIY cleaning routine like Campbell’s could significantly reduce your exposure to germs, according to Miryam Wahrman, a microbiologist and author of “The Hand Book: Surviving a Germ-Filled World.”
Here’s a rundown of the tips in Campbell’s video, and whether or not they work to prevent midair microbial stowaways.
Disposable gloves offer an added layer of protection if you’re vulnerable to illness, but are unnecessary for most people.
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As soon as she steps on board, Campbell pulls on a pair of disposable gloves, or what she calls “the best part of the whole thing.” This is to make sure she doesn’t come into contact with any unwashed surfaces as she’s wiping them down.
Wahrman told INSIDER that gloves are probably unnecessary unless your immune system is already compromised. “Most of us have robust immune systems, so even if you’re exposed, most people don’t get sick,” she said.
You can also keep your hands clean despite touching questionable surfaces by washing regularly with soap and water, especially after being in the airplane bathroom. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill germs.
“When I travel, my practice is to be germ-aware, and sanitize my hands before I eat or touch my face,” Wahrman said.
Surfaces like tray tables, seatbelts, and armrests are germ hotspots, so wiping them down can reduce your risks.
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Gloves on, Campbell pulls a travel-sized package of disposable, antibacterial wipes and sets to work cleaning everything within reach of her seat.
“Clean everything you touch,” she said. “This is what I do on every plane I get on. I do not care what people think of me, it’s my health and it makes me feel better.”
Wahrman said using an alcohol-based wipe is good advice, especially if you focus on the areas that other people are most likely to have touched, like the tray table and TV screen. Seat back pockets are also important to clean, since people may have used them for many unsanitary purposes.
“Things go in those pockets that you wouldn’t believe – dirty tissues, dirty diapers,” Wahrman said. “You don’t know what you’re being exposed to.”
In case you needed any more evidence, Twitter is also full of examples of why you should wipe down your seat area, including the in-flight entertainment screen.
A seat cover may look nice, but it won’t significantly reduce your exposure to germs in most cases.
After cleansing the seating area with surgical precision, Campbell pulls a pink seat cover out of her bag to further separate herself from any suspicious surfaces.
Campbell claims to change her seat covers every week, making sure they’re hand-washed at the hotel before they’re switched out.
Wahrman says using a seat cover is unnecessary since “your clothing is a barrier between you and the seat.”
She did, however, caution travelers to be aware of the back of their heads. Try to place a clean pillow, blanket, or the hood of a sweatshirt there as a barrier.
And if you do use a seat cover or blanket, it is helpful to wash it as soon as you get home, Wahrman said, so any germs it may have picked up don’t end up in your clean clothes.
A surgical mask won’t help much unless you’re already sick or next to someone who is.
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As the final step in her pre-flight precautions, Campbell dons a cloth face mask. “It’s my protection from people coughing and sneezing,” she said.
But you probably don’t need to follow suit, either with a cloth mask or an inexpensive paper one. That’s because air circulating through the plane is filtered, so it’s fairly safe even though many people are sharing a small space, Wahrman said.
However, if the person next to you is coughing or sneezing frequently, or otherwise appears to be ill, it might be a good plan even just for peace of mind. “If the person next to you looks really bad, you might have a very uncomfortable trip. You want to try to protect yourself,” Wahrman said.
The other exception is if you’re ill and have to travel. Wearing a face mask can keep your germs from spreading. “It would be a very considerate thing to do,” Dr. Wahrman said.
Air travel is dehydrating, so drinking plenty of water is the first line of defense.
Campbell makes sure to note early on in the video that she’s drinking enough water, a crucial part of her routine.
Staying hydrated while traveling is a good idea since filtration systems on modern planes pull moisture out of the air, increasing the odds that you’ll feel a little dry when you land.
Although you can’t take liquids through airport security, you can bring liquids from the airport onto the plane with you to quench your thirst mid-flight. Pack a refillable water bottle so you can avoid paying a premium for bottled water in the terminal, Wahrman said.
Security checkpoints are germ hotspots, so keep your personal items bagged to prevent contact with dirty shoes.
- Getty Images/ Scott Olson
Campbell doesn’t mention security, but Wahrman said travelers should be germ-aware at security checkpoints, especially when people are taking off their shoes.
Those bins in the security lines are full of germs from other people’s dirty footwear, and tossing your cellphone or other personal items is a bad idea. Instead, Wahrman said, seal those items in a Ziploc bag before placing them in the bin.
Wahrman also said to remember to wear socks whenever you’ll be going through security to keep your bare feet from coming into contact with the airport floor. There’s no telling how many others toes have tread there before, and you probably don’t want their microbes marinating when you put your shoes back on.