Germs and travel
I recently returned from a road-trip vacation with a nasty summer cold. It was my own fault—I didn’t heed my own advice to wash my hands as frequently as I should have.
Related post: Hand washing 101
Our hands are responsible for bringing a lot of germs into our bodies. We touch our nose, eyes or mouth, or our food, and voilà! the germs have found a nice, new home.
Although we usually associate colds with the winter months, germs for colds and other common viral illnesses are all over objects we touch every day, year round.
And especially when we travel, we come into contact with even more surfaces touched or coughed on or sneezed on by more people.
On my trip, my husband and I found ourselves in rest stops, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, museums, and other public attractions. We touched a lot of door handles, TV remotes, sink faucets and shopping carts, among other things.
On one of these lurked the virus that gave me my cold.
Airplanes are really germy
Last week there was a stomach-turning article in the New York Post about how many germs live on various surfaces in an airplane: Airplanes are more disgusting than you ever imagined
Everything in a plane is filthy, such as:
- The tray table; Once an airplane drops off its passengers, [flight attendants] may spray [something] or pick up papers, but no one’s cleaning the tray tables. Good to know.
- The in-flight magazines; Steer clear of this season’s in-flight magazine. If it was published three months ago, that’s likely how long that same copy has been sitting at your seat, collecting countless passengers’ microbes. The moral here is to bring your own reading material!
- The bathroom door handle; The [handle on the] bathroom door is one of the filthiest places. No kidding.
The article lists more germy surfaces, as well as ways to protect yourself. Hint: pack a lot of hand sanitizer and wet wipes.
Wash your hands, wash your hands
The easiest, cheapest and most effective way to protect yourself from germs is to wash your hands frequently.
Whether you use soap and water or hand sanitizer, technique is important. With soap and water, you must actively wash—rub your hands together—for at least 20 seconds.
And remember to dry your hands, too. Germs like wet hands. But avoid those jet-powered hand dryers in many restrooms—they just blow germs all over the place.
With hand sanitizers, use enough to thoroughly saturate your hands, about the size of a quarter, and then wait for it to dry. Like sunscreen, people tend not to use enough product to be effective.
So be smarter than me and when you travel remember to wash your hands frequently, especially after touching anything many other people have probably touched.
And here are some fun books about germs!