five ways to avoid germs while traveling

I found an interesting article while checking out the CNN website this weekend written by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Medical Correspondent on five ways to avoid germs while traveling. The tips come from Dr. Mark Gendreau, a senior staff physician at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, who has been studying germiness while traveling.

1. Sit toward the front of the airplane

According to Dr. Gendreau, there is better airflow from the ventilation system in the front of the aircraft. Of course first class is the best place to sit since there is less of the squish factor and more room there.

Although I no longer have elite status on Continental, which makes sitting closer to the front of the plane difficult at times, I have tried to sit closer to the front whenever possible. I will probably try a little harder in the future.

2. Don’t drink coffee or tea on an airplane

The EPA advises anyone with a suppressed immune system or anyone who’s “concerned” about bacteria to refrain from drinking coffee or tea on an airplane.

According to this article and the EPA’s Web site: “While boiling water for one minute will remove pathogens from drinking water, the water used to prepare coffee and tea aboard a plane is not generally brought to a sufficiently high temperature to guarantee that pathogens are killed,”

Even more scary, “According to the EPA, out of 7,812 water samples taken from 2,316 aircraft, 2.8 percent were positive for coliform bacteria.”

I was aware about not drinking tap water, and even take bottled water in to the bathroom with me when I brush my teeth, but I was unaware that the boiled water for coffee and tea was not safe.

3. Sanitize your hands after leaving an airplane bathroom

Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona who’s also known as “Dr. Germ” says a toilet on an airplane “is among the germiest that you will encounter almost anywhere.”

Dr. Germ goes on to say, “You have 50 people per toilet, unless you are flying a discount airline; then it is 75. We always find E. coli on surfaces in airplane restrooms.”

One point for me! I have been well aware that airplane toilets are full of germs. Not only do I wash my hands, but I use my little bottle of hand sanitizer to sanitize my hands as double protection after returning to my seat.

4. Wash or sanitize your hands after getting off an escalator

I never thought about the escalator as a germ breeding area before. Although this article is specifically about traveling, sanitizing your hands after touching all escalator handrails would be a good idea as a way of avoiding germs.

5. Wash or sanitize your hands after using an ATM

I sort of knew this one but have not been good about the hand sanitizer also in this situation. I also recently saw a news clip saying that germs can stay on money for up to 17 days! That sure makes avoiding germs more difficult.

Gendreau sums up how to keep healthy in six words: “hand hygiene, hand hygiene, hand hygiene.”

Check out the full article, Five ways to avoid germs while traveling, for more information on the wonderful world of germs.

9 thoughts on “five ways to avoid germs while traveling

  1. Interesting and timely info for me. I always sit in the back of the plane because I somehow got the idea that it was safer back there. Didn’t know about coffee and tea!


  2. Shopping cart handles in stores!
    Our local IGA provides a huge container of wipes to clean the cart handles before entering the store, then another container for cleaning hands on the way out!
    How thoughtful.
    Door handles in bathrooms and restaurants. Bathrooms, especially. Gaaaaack!
    Pay phones…the mouthpiece is usually full of people’s coughing, sneezing, spitting while talking…need I say more?


  3. Great reminders, Girasoli! I avoid ice on airplanes, because I’ve heard how germ-laden it can become and that it’s made with less-than-fresh water. But I hadn’t thought about coffee and tea, even though they’re usually hot but not boiled to get rid of contaminates.
    My big germ fear is keyboards on shared computers — in Internet cafes, or any shared office space. I should even clean my own more often. I’ll come in to my office and start typing without cleaning my hands first, bringing in germs. Then, I’ll be so careful about washing before eating lunch, but if I work while I’m eating, I’ve probably recontaminated my hands in seconds.


  4. michelle, thanks for stopping by. I find that I am good with some things but bad with others so I think it all evens out. I try not to be obsessive. Luckily I think I have built up some resistance by teaching preschoolers for so many years.
    Annie, I have heard differing reports on the front vs the back as being safer. I guess it depends on what part of the airplane fails. I was shocked when I read about the coffee and tea.
    Brenda, we have the wipes here also by the shopping carts. I have been aware of bathroom doors but never thought about other public doors.
    Sandra, funny, I was very aware of the ice when in Hong Kong many years ago but did not even think about it on airplanes! I can also get obsessive about keyboards but I am like you that I don’t always remember to sanitize every time I touch one at work. I do clean mine often though.


  5. Interesting – especially since I just stepped off an airplane where I was in the very very back… Oh well! I try to wash my hands a lot and use a little hand sanitizer now and then. I always get upset when I read articles about even in this day and age, doctors and nurses are not as good as they should be about hand washing, which makes them spread stuff around. Just wash your hands people! So simple yet so effective.


  6. Hi Girasoli, excellent post and tips. I also carry those hand sanitizers everywhere with me and am very good as habit now to handsanitize even though I washed my hands especially since you have to touch the door to leave the bathrooms on planes and other places “after” you’ve already washed your hands.
    I had no idea about the Coffee and tea thing though/ That was very interesting and I will have to take a pass next time I am offered in on an airplane. For me, I also have a habit of wiping the bottom of my handbag or backpack if I have left them on the floor (ibecause the restrooms don’t offer a hook to hang them). The floors (especially in public restrooms) are filthy and full of germs which gets on your bag and when we handle our handbags they then get on our hand (yikes). I never thought about sanitizing after using the internet cafe keyboards… and all the other great tips.
    Very useful information! Thanks for posting and sharing…


  7. Chiocciola, I am thinking the spot you sit on a plane is probably the least important of the 5 tips. I have seen more signs lately in hospitals here for washing hands. I would HOPE doctors and nurses would be in this habit. It sure would be helpful if the simple habit of washing your hands was in practice by more.
    Kathy, yep the coffee & tea thing was what got me the most. At least it is sort of known that there may be germs on things other people touch, but one would think that hot water would be safe. I often use a paper towel to open the door and then hold it open with my foot to throw out the paper towel. I am sure others think I am nuts! I also hold my bag before putting it on the floor.


  8. I have no choice as to where I sit on the plane because I always travel on stand-by but it is good to know that my husband, who makes a living flying those airplanes, has the best seat on the plane in regards to air quality.
    I don’t drink coffee or tea on any plane because I don’t like watered down coffee and tea is a diuretic to me and that’s the last thing I need on a long flight.
    I’m so paranoid when using public restrooms. If there’s no purse hook, I hang my purse over my neck. I open the stall with a piece of tissue and touch as little as possible around me. I’m glad to see so many touch-free faucet, soap and towel dispensers.
    On my recent trip I carried a small zip lock bag with hand wipes and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.


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