Iowa State University Alumni Association

Explore Archive


We’ve all been around people who are coughing and sneezing on a plane, and you just want to get out your Lysol and start spraying! Here are some tips we found to help escape without getting sick:

  • Scientists have found that the armrests, plastic tray tables, restroom doors, and the seat pockets in front of you carry more germs that are likely to get you sick than someone sitting near you will. Bringing sanitizing wipes and doing a bit of preflight cleaning may look silly, but it's probably worth it. The majority of infectious diseases are transmitted by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Bring hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Before you eat or drink, sanitize your hands. And don’t forget to use the sanitizer after you wash your hands in the bathroom. Old reports show that water in airplanes isn’t 100% bacteria free. If you brush your teeth on a long flight, use bottled water.
  • Take advantage of the vent above your head. Set your ventilation at low or medium and position it so you can draw an imaginary line of air current right in front of your head. Put your hands on your lap so you can feel the current to make sure it is properly positioned. If something is floating in your personal space, the air vent will create enough current to knock it away and you’ll be more likely to go home healthy!
  • Drink lots of water. The air in a plane has less humidity, making everything seem more dry.
  • Avoid sugar-laden food and drink. Sugar creates dampness and phlegm, which can lead to an environment where viruses and bacteria thrive. It is a sort of petri dish in your sinuses and the back of your throat.


Kari (’82 leisure studies) and Colin (’82 ag mechanization) Dirks (L) had always wanted to go to Alaska. So when they saw the ISU Alumni Association brochure for a small-group experience to Alaska in 2012, they jumped at the chance.

“Everything was great about that trip,” Kari said. “We were on a 36-passenger ship, and it was first class. We were treated like royalty. We were so spoiled!”

The couple kayaked among glaciers, hiked in Glacier Bay, relaxed in quiet coves, and spotted moose, whales, and dolphins. It was, they said, one of the best trips they’d ever taken. So when it came time to splurge on travel again, they immediately thought of the Alumni Association. Their 2014 trip was to the Canadian Rockies. And the next year? They were signed up to travel with the Traveling Cyclones to Australia and New Zealand. When a health problem forced them to cancel at the last minute, they were disappointed but said they were very glad they’d taken out travel insurance.

“We have a friend who told us that we could probably do that trip cheaper if we went through someone else, but I don’t want to go with anyone else,” Colin said. “Iowa State has taken care of us. And you get what you pay for.”


If you are one of those people who loves the window seat, then you have probably noticed the tiny hole at the bottom of the airplane window.

The hole—tiny as it may be—helps keep passengers safe. It all comes down to pressure: the higher the altitude, the lower the oxygen, which can leave people feeling ill and short of breath. At a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, the air pressure is so low that anyone would pass out if he or she was exposed to it, so a plane's cabin must be pressurized to be much greater than the outside air. Good for passengers, yes -- but not so great for the plane, which needs a way to release some of the strain this puts on the aircraft. Enter the tiny "bleed" or "breather" holes, which do just that.

Look closely at your window, and you'll see that it's not just made up of one durable pane, but three. According to Mark Vanhoenacker, a British Airways pilot who writes for Slate, the innermost pane is mostly to protect the second and third panes, which are "designed to contain this difference in pressure between the cabin and the sky." The bleed hole, then, allows pressure to be balanced out between the cabin and gap between panes. Another function of the airplane window hole? To release moisture and minimize the frost or condensation blocking your view. And that's good news for any pictures you may take, because, let’s face it: We have all snapped a shot through that little window a time or two.

© 2017 Iowa State University Alumni Association. All rights reserved.