I LOVE to travel! Preparing for my trip, packing, checking the weather – I love to travel almost as much as I love being a doctor! However, one thing that I want to avoid – at all costs – is getting sick while traveling. I’d love to share with you some hidden dangers of airports so that you can avoid them and return from your fabulous trip without warts, athlete’s foot, or bacterial/viral infections!
There have been many studies done on the dirty aspects of airports … Fomites (dead skin cells), warts, fungi, bedbugs, scabies, and more are lurking around every corner of the airport, not to mention other gnarly viruses and bacteria. Here are a few of the most germ-infested areas of our airports:
Check-in monitors: Some of the areas of highest colony forming units (CFU’s) – a way we quantify the number of germs in a given area – in an airport are the self check-in monitors. Just thinking about how many people pick their noses, go to the bathroom without washing their hands, etc and then touch these monitors grosses me out!
Plastic bins: High concentrations of e.coli and other fecal bacteria has been found in the plastic bins at the TSA security line. This essentially means that those bins’ surfaces are contaminated with poop!
Escalators: Those handrails along stairs and escalators and the moving walkways are loaded with bacteria and viruses. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t touch handrails, as falling down the stairs is not a good alternative! Just carry hand sanitizer with you and use it after you exit the escalators.
Water fountains: Again- so many people touching the water button. Watch out for those disease causing microbes! Hand sanitizer is key!
Tray table/Armrest/Seat belt buckle/Air vent above your seat: Sites in airports that are frequently touched but not routinely cleaned include the tray table, armrest and even your seatbelt buckle. And don’t forget that air vent above you! These are all hot spots for germ transmission. Bring Clorox wipes (or other sanitizing wipes) in your bag and wipe down ALL surfaces before you touch them.
I recommend being mindful of what you touch throughout your time at the airport and on the plane. Always wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer when you don’t have access to soap and water. These wipes should kill most bacteria and viruses living on surfaces that we normally can’t help touching. Consider wiping down the armrests of the chair while you are sitting down and waiting to board your plane. Airport bathrooms are cleaned regularly, but also heavily used. Stall handles, sink faucets and exit panels on the doors frequently test positive for high numbers of germs.
I know we’re all sick of masks, but, if you don’t want to become the next host of the virus or bacterial infection that the person next to you is carrying, a mask is your best defensive!
Stay Safe and Happy Travels!!