Just in time to make you sick for the holidays comes word of the
germiest spots on airplanes and in the airport.
As every frequent flier knows, all it takes is one fellow
passenger sneezing and coughing their way to the destination to
make you feel like you're trapped in an iron germ factory. (As I
write this, I am on a plane headed to Los Angeles. The woman in the
row behind is sneezing. Ugh.)
Several days before I fly, I start dosing myself with vitamin C.
I continue throughout the trip and for a couple of days after I get
home. It seems to help. Avoiding the germiest spots in airports and
on airplanes can help too.
Peter Sheldon, vice president of operations and development for
a company called Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System, says there
are five spots to beware of when you're traveling. He offers tips
for protecting yourself and your kids:
1) Plane potties
During each flight, as many as 75 different people might use one
plane lavatory. No surprise, then, that studies show almost every
surface of the plane potty is teeming with E. coli. It doesn't help
that the financial pressures on airlines means that planes are on
the ground for only the briefest period, severely limiting the
cleaning time available. To make matters worse, that tiny little
sink makes it nearly impossible to thoroughly wash your hands. Even
if you do wash your hands, when you leave to return to your seat,
you'll be touching the same door handle that was touched by
everyone who didn't.
Solution: The easiest solution is to steer
clear of the plane potty. When that isn't an option (remember how
it was when you were pregnant? Or potty training your toddler?) use
a paper towel to turn faucets off and on, to close the lid before
flushing, and to open the door. Carry sanitizing wipes and use them
once you're back at your seat.
2) Reading materials
Because not everyone is as conscientious about washing their
hands as you are, try not to touch anything someone else is likely
to have touched. That starts with the onboard magazines and
catalogs that have been handled by hundreds of others, at least a
few of whom wiped their runny nose with that same hand they're
using to hold the magazine. If that doesn't give you a mental image
of "eww," how about this: Sheldon asks, "[H]ow many times have you
seen someone absentmindedly lick their finger to help turn the
Solution: Bring your own reading materials.
3) Public drinking fountains.
That whole TSA-required ban on liquids through security makes
life difficult for those of us who like to sip a beverage at the
airport or on the plane. Filling a water bottle from a public
drinking fountain exposes you to as many as 2.7 million bacteria
per square inch on the spigot, Sheldon says.
Solution: He suggests forking over the
airport-inflated price for a sealed bottle of water after you get
through security or bringing a small (3 ounces or less) bottle you
filled at home. I have a better idea: stop at the Starbuck's
counter and ask them to fill your bottle from their water
4) Airline pillows and blankets
The reality is that it's tough to find either on a flight these
days unless you manage to upgrade to the first class cabin. If
there is one, chances are someone fell asleep and drooled on it.
Solution: Bring your own. I never travel
without a pashmina. It works as a colorful shawl to dress up an
outfit when you're on the ground and as a blanket during a chilly
flight. If you simply must take a nap, spring for one of those neck
pillows they sell all over the airport. There are inflatable ones
that will tuck into a pocket. If you prefer a cushier one, add a
hook and clip it to your backpack or carry on. And always dress to
travel in your heaviest layers-it will keep you warmer on the
flight and free up valuable space in your suitcase.
5) TSA security screening areas
Everyone over 12 years of age is expected to practically strip
to get through security-including taking off their shoes. I am
stunned by the number of people who then walk barefoot through
security. At O'Hare, one of the world's busiest airports. Triple
Solution: This is a no-brainer. Wear socks.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two who gets her muse from traveling the world, usually with kids in tow. She also writes for TravelingMom.com, where she also serves as editor.
See more of Cindy's stories here.
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